A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

A Traffic Of Love

The Scottish writer Anna (Nan) Shepherd (1893-1981) was a lecturer in English, a keen gardener and hill walker. She wrote poetry, and 3 novels - The Quarry Wood (1928), The Weatherhouse (1930) and A Pass In The Grampians (1933). Her last work, the exquisite prose meditation The Living Mountain, was written just after WWII but not published until 1977. She described the work as a traffic of love, adding but love pursued with fervour is one of the roads to knowledge. Here are the 1st 2 paragraphs of The Living Mountain:

Summer on the high plateau can be delectable as honey; it can also be a roaring scourge. To those who love the place, both are good, since both are part of its essential nature. And it is to know its essential nature that I am seeking here. To know, that is, with the knowledge that is a process of living. That is not done easily nor in an hour. It is a tale too slow for the impatience of our age, not of immediate enough import for its desperate problems. Yet it has its own rare value. It is, for one thing, a corrective of glib assessment: one never quite knows the mountain, nor oneself in relation to it. However often I walk on them, these hills hold astonishment for me. There is no getting accustomed to them.

The Cairngorm Mountains are a mass of granite thrust up through the schists and gneiss that form the lower surrounding hills, planed down by the ice cap, and split, shattered and scooped by frost, glaciers and the strength of running water. Their physiognomy is in the geography books - so many square miles of area, so many lochs, so many summits of over 4000 feet - but this is a pallid simulacrum of their reality, which, like every reality that matters ultimately to human beings, is a reality of the mind.

The Living Mountain - along with Shepherd's 3 novels - can be found in a volume bound up as The Grampian Quartet and published by Canongate of Edinburgh.


Loren said...

Alas, here in America Amazon says it is no longer in stock and they have no date for when, or if, it will return.

I'm not sure if you can order from England or not on Amazon.

Two yards of lard said...

I don't know this, but I shall definitely be looking out for it.

The Solitary Walker said...

Why don't you try AbeBooks? I have always found them efficient and problem-free. I have just checked their UK site and there's a copy available from a bookshop in Canada.