There's a very fine line between attraction and fear. I am drawn to isolated places and yet I fear isolation. A conundrum?
In my youth I spent many hours, sometimes days, wandering lonely moors and coasts finding solace in the vast empty spaces and although I was aware of being alone I did not in fact feel lonely.
As I got older the idea of being by myself in such exposed and open places still appealed to me though it also began to fill me with a certain terror that I did not have as a younger man.
I might have expected the experiences of life to teach me to be more comfortable in my own company and in many ways that was true.....but I can see now that the endless expanses of nothingness that I craved as a young man probably represented my life and the road ahead of me. Later those same uninterrupted views of sea and sky would speak to me of loneliness, emptiness and – ultimately - eternity, death, whatever you want to call it.
Churches, both the structures and sometimes their inhabitants, have always instilled fear and distrust in me. Not those quaint hillside chapels you might stumble across in rural Wales with rustic, hand-made walls and mullioned glass windows whose occupants are part of the landscape, but rather those austere grandiose Gothic monoliths whose architects seek to become closer to the Almighty through building ever higher and ever more elaborate towers and arches. They strive to bring those vast, lonely landscapes inside and in doing so create a building full of only emptiness. Let those structures of mans' folly crumble and become ruins, let them be overtaken with nature – and there, peacefully amid the ivy clad columns and roofless shell, there you might find the Almighty. Where once vast stained glass windows blocked out views of the sky, now there is sky and where gargoyles with severe, now eroded, faces once looked out in contempt over rows of people seeking truth, but on their own terms, now they watch over whirling crows and silence.
But perhaps I digress.
I spent the day exploring a stretch of wild Irish Sea coast a while ago with my partner and we came to a tiny village which nestled behind a wall of soft sandstone cliffs. There was a track that led abruptly up from the village in a skyward direction before plunging steeply down to the sea shore. At its highest point, the track met another even smaller track that led off to the right and about a hundred yards down this second exposed path there was a tiny stone built cottage which stood under a reinforced roof facing defiantly towards the sea. It had attached to it a small, home-made, 'For Sale' sign. My instinct was to buy it. I imagined wild winter nights watching the angry sea below and cool Spring mornings as the sun rose on calmer waters. The ever changing light and shade and the big, very big, coastal sky. And being part of it.
Today I am at a point where I can again be drawn to isolated places without fear. Perhaps the thought of eternity is no longer quite so daunting. True, I would like to explore this isolation with another, someone I can trust to catch me should I fall – and I am lucky to have such a person in my life – but as I look out over the vast open sea or search over empty expanses of land and sky, I am beginning to realise again that there are worse places to be....and possibly nowhere better.
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