Step Two: Self Assessment Pt. II

In Step One I introduced the idea of self assessment, of looking at what has been, and what is. As an example, I talked about my physical condition, and how it has changed for the better over the last year. In this second step I shall continue on this theme, beginning with discussing my current physical location, before likely ponderous musings on creativity, and my emotional and mental states and, crucially, how all these strands of me weave together into a whole.

As I write this I am looking at a path, leading away into a future — into many possible futures — but, as anyone who spends time in wild places knows, it is equally important to examine your backtrail. How did you get to this point? What perils and pleasures lie behind? Are they worthwhile pointers and warnings for coming experiences, or is the route and terrain changing? These are questions we can apply to our journey in life.


Not Exactly a Year in Review

I started a piece, intended to be a retrospective of 2015 and a look forward to 2016, at the end of November. However, around the end of December, during final edits, I slowed, paused, and then stopped, not long before I was going to queue for posting.

I had planned to share this almost-finished piece, as is customary across the world of the blog, on or around New Year, the turning of our Western/Gregorian calendrical year. But then I didn’t.

Why was this? Despite much thinking about it, I’m not entirely sure.

(All the 100 photographs I have used to illustrate this piece were taken here, in Caithness, during 2015. There is no mouseover text for this post, simply due to the issues I had with the galleries and a lack of time. If you want to see or download better quality versions of any of these photos, they are available here.)


At this time of year the internet, newspapers, radio, television, are flooded with a variant of “INSERT YEAR HERE in retrospect”. Some people list books they’ve read and admired (or not, as the case may be), others movies or television shows they loved. Many people give a month-by-month, blow-by-blow account of the year, beginning with the clock chiming midnight 365 days earlier. (more…)

The Rare Strath Haggis

Below is a rare photo of a strath haggis (Haggis chloris), a relative of the better known, but still misunderstood, common haggis (Haggis vulgaris).

Whereas the common haggis is famously an upland dweller, the strath haggis frequents the glens and river and stream valleys of the Highlands of Scotland. Its superb camouflage is the perfect example of evolution, growing thicker for the colder winters and moulting in early summer. The longer coarse, reddish guard hairs (visible in these photos) remain all year, it is the woolly green fur that is shed for a thinner coat between May and early June.

Strath haggis (Haggis chloris)

Strath haggis (Haggis chloris)


On Flexibility

Last week I posted a very short ghost story, rather than the longer blog I had intended to share. All that piece needed was some final editing, some smoothing and perhaps a spot of gentle carving, but that was it. Unfortunately I ended up with some sort of virus, a heavy cold that moved down to my chest. Not a problem for writing, thought I. But I was wrong.

As soon as I started the final edits I realised that it was not only my nose and throat that were congested, but my brain and, especially, my word-gland that had also become infected. Simple things became a challenge, words would not spell themselves (I never use a spell-check until the final posting), grammar became tricksome, whole sentences would suddenly lose their way and meander into dark and dank places. The screen, despite being dimmed, was making my head hurt and this, coupled with a cold burning behind my eyes, made me pause.

I probably coughed a little, maybe felt a little sorry for myself, then stopped editing. Instead I posted the ghost story in true Blue Peter fashion; “Here’s one I made earlier.”

Flexibility is something I have only realised the true value of this year. In the past I would have pushed on, Taurean stubbornness convinced I could embroider with a spear, or carve a chess piece with an axe (actually, thinking about it, I might be able to do the second one — axe carving can be surprisingly subtle and delicate at times). When all failed I would brood. (I could win prizes for brooding — I am wont to gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirths, as Howard described Conan possessing.)

Spring in the mountains.

Looking north. The photos to accompany this piece will all be of the west coast of Scotland, taken in the spring. Since I have decided I am not going to be able to make it out there this autumn, I am surrounding myself with reminders of the sudden en-verdancy of spring in the hope I can get out there then. Flexibility. (The quality may not be the best, as they were all taken on an old camera phone.)