Tag Archives: Edinburgh

Healing The Soul

Healing The Soul

Some folk find solace and gain freedom through listening to music, through looking at paintings or any number of activities, but for me it’s the simple joys of walking in the countryside.  Being in the great outdoors, and especially on the hills or mountains, makes me realise how we are all just an itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny part of the whole scheme of things. Just one tiny element in a vast universe. The beauty of the world is overwhelming .

Now, some folk don’t do Mondays and I don’t do weeping, especially since my husband’s death.   Throughout my life I have restrained my emotions and tried to keep “in control” (perhaps in response to the horrendous lack of control involved at other times thanks to the grand mal seizures that plagued me from childood until my forties). I have had a number of traumatic events to cope with over the years too, so eventually my body had kinda had enough and rebelled.  My voice has always been a weak spot insofar as losing it would be the first symptom of a cold, and after my pneumonia in September 2010, my left vocal cord became paralysed, resulting in the loss of my voice.  I had no more than a tiny whisper for about three months then improved to a squeak for another ten. This is not condusive to contentment for an actress!! Gradually I have regained some voice, albeit higher than my previous one,  thanks to the support and advice of Vocal Performance Coaching and have come to learn that much now depends on my coming to terms with my emotions.

In addition to gaining supreme pleasure just from observing the beauty of the world, on the hill my mind just switched off from the problems, troubles and pending decisions.  All the stresses & strains of childhood fears, bereavements, estrangements, medical conditions, To Do lists, timetables and all the rest of the emotionally restrictive and oppressive ‘stuff’ that had affected me to the extent of robbing me both of my breath and my voice, either paled into insignificance or were put into perspective. 

On our walk from Dreghorn to Hillend emotion suddenly overcame me and poured out to my surprise, initial discomfort then immense relief.  Going back hillwalking  I have rediscovered the therapy that being in the hills can be for me and my soul has started healing.   So, onwards and upwards……

If At First…….

If At First……

On 18th April, despite a poor weather forecast, Debbie and I decided to go from Dreghorn to Hillend – or to Balerno or to Glencorse – we didn’t really mind.  However,  after a long slog up the horrible steep path from Dreghorn (which is more like a trial than a trail – ugh!), the weather “came in” as they say, and in every direction we were met with thick cloud at ground level.

We had lunch at what I think of as ‘the junction’ where the various routes meet and decided we would have to abandon the walk. Another walker felt the same – it was simply not worth the risk when we couldn’t properly see where we were going.

But, believe it or not, we were still having a great time and my breathing seemed to have improved a teeny bit despite the challenging conditions.

The following week we were far more pressed for time as Debbie had to be back in Livingston for another appointment early afternoon, so I suggested we go to Threipmuir from Balerno for a lower level walk. Huh! The lesson of this one was to prove to be ‘never believe what other walkers and/or cyclists tell you if you don’t already know the route and/or you can’t see it marked on the map!!’ After we had been walking for about an hour we were ‘reliably’ informed by a mountain biker then an elderly hiker that if we went on a bit further there was an unmarked path which would lead us back to where I had parked the car – but this path never appeared! It was a bit chilly but generally fine and once again we were thoroughly enjoying ourselves having our adventure.  We had a lovely time soaking in the beauty of the surroundings and slowly the weather cheered but – but sadly not in time for us to change our plans.

Sadly time really was pressing and we eventually found ourselves two hours away from the car with the shortest way back turning out to be the way we had come! Anyway, to cut what can be a very long story a bit shorter, at Loganlea we came across a fishermen’s hut, complete with fishermen, one of whom was just about to go home in his car. Never being backwards in coming forwards I explained our predicament and by a fortuitous coincidence his home route was on the A70 which leads to Balerno where my car was parked.  This kind gentleman took pity on we damsels in distress and gave us a lift all the way back to my car. Thanks to this good Samaritan I managed to get Debbie back to Livingston just in time and we pledged then not to do any more ‘by the skin of our teeth’ trips (if we can help it ).

Our next day out was three weeks later after we both had holidays abroad. We started again from Dreghorn, (a short walk from my flat) and afterwards declared with a passion that we are never using that route for a way-in again. It is a good path as far as the surface is concerned but it has been dug out far below the hillside and is unremittingly steep, so much so it is not enjoyable at all.  Rant over!   To ameliorate the drudgery of the path  the weather was fabulous – we were soon soaked again but this time with perspiration not precipitation. Once off that dreadful path we continued to Hillend across the lovely hills of Allermuir and Caerketton with our spirits buoyed by the heavenly views over Edinburgh and the rest of the Pentlands on such a beautifully clear, sunny day. We were two very happy bunnies. I felt it was not fair on Debbie for her to keep having to stop with me so I persuaded her to go ahead at the pace comfortable for her. I then found by just going at a much slower pace I was able to keep going for far longer without losing breath. Result!

In fact it proved to be a most cathartic day for me.……………emotions came to the fore and Debbie encouraged me to let it out……..the healing of my soul had started.


From little acorns and all that.

From little acorns and all that.

On 7th April Debbie came through to meet me, ostensibly for a walk in the Pentlands, but as it happens the cloud base was very low that day  so I suggested we go to Arthur’s Seat instead .  By gum! The pair of us were ‘peching’ as soon as we started on the Radical Road but, whereas she soon got in the zone, I was utterly useless. I could not breathe properly at all. I kept taking nice big breaths but letting it all out again before I could use it! It was crazy and meant I had to stop every few steps during the walk up. (I had pneumonia is September 2010, which didn’t exactly help with my lung capacity, but I suspect my problem was more in my head than my chest.)  Once we got on more level ground I was fine and we had a lovely time, so we decided to try again the following week.

For our first proper hillwalking session we drove out to Nine Mile Burn to go up West Kip via Monks Law. Huh! It started off ok  but very soon the rain came in – then the hail – and the wind – then more rain and more hail.  Nevertheless, we are made of sterner stuff and were determined to do what we set out to do and had a great time giggling and braving what Scotland could throw at us.

My attempt to convince Debbie that the top of a fence post could double as a lunch table made her suspect she had come walking with a severely delusional woman, but she humoured me and we ate soggy butties with relish –  hahemm.

I still struggled to breathe effectively but it wasn’t quite as bad as the previous time and I started to acknowledge that if I relaxed it became a lot easier. It was tricky underfoot because of being so wet and it was not easy for me to see through heavily rain splattered glasses, so Debbie scrambled up the last few feet on her own and I took the ‘proof’ photos.

At this point I started getting some of my old feelings back and realised just how sorely I had missed being out in the hills. I had to get back in the habit.   We agreed to make it a regular one.   If at first……..

Why “Feeding The Soul”?

Why “Food For The Soul” ?

This wonderful country of Scotland provides what I term “food for my soul”. Visiting places like Glen Coe, Glen Etive, The Cuillins on Skye, Torridon and Sutherland – mountains, cloud formations, waves, patterns made by ripples, all provide wonderment galore. So much beauty surrounds us in a myriad of weather conditions, and the simple wonders of the world provide intense pleasure …………… . .

but for me walking in the hills is a ‘soul fix’ in a different league. (Picture of Buachaille Etive Mhor – by Walter Hampson, used by permission)

To explain a wee bit… My late husband (Bob) and I used to walk the Scottish mountains at every spare moment, plus tackling some simple rock climbing, abseiling and cycling. No doubt about it, it was an excruciatingly traumatic trial for me, with much distress mixed with success, but gradually I learned how to cope – how to trust myself – and my soul was lifted.

I am totally convinced that these activities were my saviours because, as a result of the intense physical and emotional challenges faced over a period of approximately ten years, I conquered the debilitating grand mal epilepsy that had plagued me since being seven years old.   I had my last seizure in October 1990 and after five years fit-free I decided to wean myself off all the drugs that I had taken since I was ten (albeit with changes over the years). This I did with my GP’s agreement during the following three years, so that by September 1998 I was medication free.  Bob died in October 1998.

Anyway, since Bob’s death in 1998 I had not hillwalked, apart from taking his ashes to the summit of Sgurr Nan Gillean on Skye and a couple of times up the Pentlands near to where I live. In fact, I thought that part of my life was finished and I had forgotten how much I needed this natural therapy.  A chance remark by my friend Debbie, that she needed to get away from it all for a wee while, prompted me to suggest she came through to Edinburgh for a wee wander in the Pentlands.  From little acorns and all that …..  .