3 November 2017. A walk with views.
Dry cardboard leaves and wrinkled skin. It is autumn. The smell of decomposition heralds the beginning of winter, but the azure skies are reminiscent of last year in Spain on the Camino.
These happy memories inevitably lead to sadness, made worse by the season’s proclivities. There are almost no leaves left on the trees and part of me doubts if summer will ever come again.
I feel contentment not happiness as I climb in the silence and contemplate this solitude.
In the distance Swiss flags are flying. Nearby there is dung on the path after last week’s flitting when the cows were brought from the slopes for the winter. Lambing is in progress. I can distinguish now between the different timbres of cattle bells ringing round the mountains, their walls creating a huge singing bowl.
I move between open grassy slopes to dark fir woods where no photos are possible. There is also very steep, carefully managed woodland to the tune of bing bong ben. Underfoot are, variously, beech leaf-piles and phallic cones. I breathe heavily with the effort, my muscles toning and strengthening (so I promise myself) as I strain up and higher.
Blue birdseye to match the sky crouches next to the mini-suns of a dandelion-type flower. It is shorts and T-shirt weather and I come across a mountain cabin with a veranda just for me to bathe on.
Here I meditate and muse for an hour facing away from the sun to warm my kidneys and let the rays shine between my vertebrae. It feels as if I have a back of velvet. I hear axe on wood; a bee busys by my ear and it is easy to imagine it is trying to tell me something. If I lived here what would happen? Would my mind be quiet or is it just that I would be able to hear things which usually the world is too loud for?
But no, other noises disturb my reverie. I am not scared, I only want to know what is in the forest over there. However much I watch nothing is revealed. I settle back. It is so still that an inertia or reluctance to walk has come over me. My skin feels caressed by the breeze.
A wood pecker taps. I see spider skeins in the air made visible by the rays. Far away, wisps of cloud sit in the lap of the mountain. Diagonal ribs of grassy slopes ripple down below an opaque turquoise, which in turn sets the rocky teeth of the horizon into relief.
My eating disturbs the silence but then again so does my tummy rumbling. As if this place is my private domain, I sit in my bra. Last night I dreamt of a conversation with a Border collie, and today I congratulate a mother sheep whose newborn couries doun beside her. This landscape is having an influence!
At 927 metres is the closed Carthusian chapter of Chartreuse La Valsainte, Cerniat. It is fitting that nearby there are silent and solitary monks secluded from the rest of the world.
I spot a pair of the raptors I saw yesterday and when they are further away they do sound like the rare bearded vultures on the internet. They certainly looked like them from a distance.
Eventually the sun leaves my idyllic corner, although the wooden door I lean against remains cosy for ages. I didn’t see a soul though I fancied I heard the odd voice wafting up. Maybe they were spirits, given it is so close to Samhain (31 Oct / 1 Nov: the Gaelic festival where a sort of veil comes down between harvest and winter’s dormancy).
Meanwhile aeroplanes create white crosses looking like cotton wool when you pull the whole length out of the bag.
What grand old trees I move between! I am hot again as I negotiate the steep.
Then I am at the first summit and I know what is there below me: Lake Gruyère. I can identify the town of Bulle, and the 2002 metres of Moléson which I climbed 3 days ago, to the left. I have the urge to run uphill – mountain goat madness.
Soon afterwards I am on Mont Bifé.
Sitting down to manage the vertigo ‘in the pit of my stomach’ I feel waves of sensation in my base chakra. I open up the map and the land is open in front of it. There is a viaduct over the Lac de la Gruyère, a castle or quarry (maybe Verchaux), and a black and white bird suddenly flies past in front of my eyes. There is no wind. It is warm, warm. Harebells dangle, and I smell the odour of wild thyme in bloom.
The ear splitting aircraft is a violation of this landscape.
After this, I wander gently downwards, find a helpful signpost, and start to negotiate more slippery, damp-smelling and slightly treacherous pathways on the Yin side of the mountain facing away from the sun.
I have come over the other side of my morning’s world into a shadier environment with places the width of one foot to walk on as I totter round the edge of precipitous rocks on boards which have been laid there to enable access. Then it is down a steep ladder, through undergrowth and over the many fallen tree trunks, before I come out once again into the open by one of the occassional stone houses which shepherds use in the summer.
Now where do I go from here? There follows an hour or traipsing over and under, through and around, until I finally accept defeat and retrace my steps through the tricky part and back to that signpost. I find this very difficult. I like to move forward from a to b and have never enjoyed going back and starting again.
In fact, the way down is easy once found, and I even meet two friendly women coming up, although their conversation seemed so loud.
I get cold and hurtle on to get my circulation going, arriving some six plus hours later back where I started and ready for a cup of tea.
A lovely blog about alpine flowers: https://wanderwisdom.com/travel-destinations/alpine-flowers-switzerland