Saturday, July 04, 2015

Exertion and gentleness on an East Lomond hill walk...

East Lomond beckons through a light, morning mist.
Leaving the trailhead, the air was soft, moist, still...there was a calmness and gentleness to nature. 

Two of our favourite volcanic hills, and right nearby, are East and West Lomond, also known as the Paps of Fife. It's been a while since they've felt the heat of molten magma. These hills have survived 300 million years of erosive forces. A mere 18,000 years ago, a kilometre of ice moved up and over and around them. They stood their ground, the dense and fire-formed rock refused to be intimidated by the massive weight and dynamic forces of the ice. They gently remained, "as they were".

In relative terms, it was just "yesterday" that nearby Falkland Palace was transformed, by King James lV and James V, from an old castle into a royal palace. Mary Queen of Scots ran her cherished dogs and flew her hawks on these hills, once part of the hunting grounds belonging to the former royal residence. 

At 448 metres (1,471 feet), there is a wonderful view over the Kingdom of Fife, south to the Firth of Forth, and north and west over the Angus and Perthshire Hills. 

Initial steps along the forested trail.
It's a good uphill walk. There was required exertion, but also there was also a gentleness to this day on East Lomond. 

A dramatic thunderstorm, a wild wind, a driving rain, or blowing snow can be exciting and exhilarating and invigorating...but the calm that often follows (or precedes) these meteorological events is often filled with both promise and surprise as nature takes a breath...for even She must need to rest and find quiet moments for respite and restoration.

The frequent rains had created a green and glowing effusion of health and wholeness to all that springs from the earth.

I rather like gentleness's always one step at a time.
My spirit is soothed by gentle music. It's easy to appreciate all kinds of music, from country to Celtic to the classics, and everything in between...but it's the meditative, gentle strains that touch most deeply. 

As I write this, I am listening to quiet, peaceful, and contemplative piano music. The heart rate and breathing has slowed, the body may even be releasing endorphins, those neurotransmitters that calm and produce a sense of well-being. The music is so subtle that it almost vanishes from the consciousness...but it is there, behind everything. It is easy to lose oneself, thoughts liberated and surrendering themselves freely to the keyboard.

Gateway to the summit.
For me, gentle colours are most appealing. Of course, there's a time and a place for the "high viz" vests and jackets that startle and stimulate motorists into recognising that courtesy is required, that they must share the road with the runner, the walker, or the cyclist. We know that very well, and when in doubt, we are known to add a brilliant flashing light when running along the road. But I prefer the softer colours.

Colours affect us psychologically, emotionally, and physically. They give us a way to express ourselves, and a means to interpret the world. It's the gentle colours, the ones that are calming, restful, and tranquil that sooth the eyes and bring healing and strength to the soul. They are the colours of broad expanses of nature, especially the greens. 

The twin peak...West Lomond, from East Lomond.
I appreciate gentle voices, voices that don't have a need to clamour for constant attention. I'm drawn to the voices that are sufficiently generous of spirit to take a breath, in order to listen to and value the thoughts of others. Listening seems such a rare commodity these days. It is an expression of openness, gentleness and humility. The act of active listening requires courage and self-confidence and a genuine interest in the thoughts of others. The willingness to listen, with care and respect, is what would change the world. It is such a gift. Gentle voices permit that gift to be shared.

I like gentle thoughts, expressed with sensitivity, kindness, and compassion by gentle voices...the shared hopes and dreams and aspirations, accompanied by courageous strategies, that would enrich the lives of all people everywhere. 

NT48S014...the pillar trig point on East Lomond.
I am drawn to gentle people...who listen, who value the moment, who want the very best for others, who are sufficiently patient to find goodness everywhere, who are slow to judge but quick to affirm and encourage, who believe in living love, who understand the planet that we share is fragile, and that all life is connected.  

It is in their lives that I am reminded...

Wild Scottish rhododendrons, the national flower of Nepal, looking back at East Lomond.

Nothing is so strong as gentleness, 
nothing so gentle as real strength.
-St. Francis de Sales

Falkland Palace, residence of the Stuart Monarchy.
Returning to the trailhead, near Falkland Palace, there was a calmness in the village streets. If the ancient palace walls could share their stories...they might remind us that their most peace-filled memories, and greatest moments, were when people lived with expressed gentleness towards one another. 

It is, perhaps, how we human beings demonstrate our greatest strength.

And when it comes to hill walking, the combination of exertion and gentleness could be the best of both worlds. :)


  1. As I read your words I feel wrapped in a sense of peaceful gentleness....wonderful. The quote speaks to me - our world needs more gentleness, something we can all work towards.

    1. Hi Linda, thank you for that. It IS something we can work's not always easy, but it's the right thing. Wishing for you much rain for the thirsty land. Warm wishes. Duncan.

  2. Really great post Duncan, and a timely reminder too; I made time to take a long walk today- though nowhere as lovely as the Lomonds. Those two are visible from an incredible distance; they are really prominent in the view from the Cairn o'Mount road across several counties.....

    Warm wishes

    1. Hi Ian, great to hear from you. Glad to hear you had some terra firma time and look forward to hearing about it. Hope to get up to the Moray Firth in a couple of days, yes, the paddle you and I did last year. :) Warm wishes from us both. Duncan.