Monday, September 22, 2008

The Living Mountain

It's not often the Re-readings features in Saturday's Guardian Review have me running to the bookshop. However Robert Macfarlane's piece on Nan Shepherd's 'The Living Mountain' did. She's a classic Scottish woman writer I'm embarrassed not to have read before. As Macfarlane says, 'Most works of mountain literature are written by men, and most male mountaineers are focused on the goal of the summit. Shepherd, however, goes into the Cairngorms aimlessly, "merely to be with the mountain as one visits a friend, with no intention but to be with him". '

The trip to the bookshop was a disappointment. 'Out of print', they said. I wasn't the first there asking for it, so hopefully Canongate might get the message. Luckily my local library came up trumps and I've now had it in my hands for a couple of hours of absorption.

It made me want to dedicate the rest of my life to tramping with no particular trajectory over one area of land that I could get to know in the way she knew the Cairngorms. The writing reflects this great intimacy, as she says: 'I have discovered my mountain - its weathers, its airs and lights, its singing burns, its haunted dells, its pinnacles and tarns, its birds and flowers, its snows, its long blue distances. Year by year, I have grown in familiarity with them all.' Her own senses and body are very present in the writing - and all is discovered through the medium of walking, '...the long rhythm of motion sustained until motion is felt, not merely known by the brain, as the 'still centre' of being.... Walking thus, hour after hour, the senses keyed, one walks the flesh transparent.'


Tousled Raven said...

I'm also really keen to read the Nan Shepherd books and have them in my own hands to read closely. Maybe if there as concerted pressure on Canongate ...and especially in view of the rise in nature writing in recent times? Granta 102 was really interesting, but as you say, very few women writers so it did seem lop sided.
Enjoying your blog very much. Will you keep going when you finish the award time? I really hope so as there's a lot of interesting points you're raising.

Linda Cracknell said...

Thanks TR,although my project technically finishes at the end of December, I'm sure I'll be continuing with similar work. There are still so many things I want to do, so yes, I hope to continue the blog!