A few weeks ago I travelled through a snowstorm looking for reindeer but was forced by the weather into Rothiemurchus, near Aviemore. Rat Murchus; ancient pine forest of the Caledonians, where an ancient winter still blows. The trees are bones, keepers of memory. Fir giants, covered in snow. Sometimes the place you end up in by chance is the place you need to be.
In the Caledonian pine forest the blizzard stopped. Time stopped, ran backwards, to a great winter of old. People came into the forest, dogs came. Folk came and went, leaving only footprints. I left my footprint too, returned to the blizzard I arrived in, but parted with the mark of the forest upon me.
The year closes. I light my final candle to inspiration, to find the last words so that on Christmas Eve I can pack away the manuscript I have been working on. I will let it slumber. My mind will rest over festive games, snow walks and candlelight. How freeing it will feel to walk snowy hills and frosted rivers while my imagination runs loose. In my head I am singing my favourite carol:
“The rising of the sun
And the running of the deer.”
An ancient, pagan whirl of new light, hunts and fresh blood on snow. Slow days are approaching so that we can all rest a while and be reborn with the sun come New Year. But before that reward there is one final scene to write, the most important one of all – the end.
While writing the final scenes my mind has often wandered back to Rothiemurchus forest. I have also linked it inextricably to the primeval wood in Lavondyss, a book which has gripped me for the past two weeks. I think of inspiration and its genesis in the ancient pine forest. All things are born in the forest. The year is dying, a beautiful pagan flourish of flame and green. Berries, wax and ribbon bright as blood. The sky glowers. My candle burns. As I search for the final words I contemplate their beginnings, the old inspiration that will take me across a new threshold. How did it all begin and why? How did I travel from a girl and her grandfather to selkies at the edge of a frozen sea?
I close my eyes and am in the wood. Rat Murchus, Ryhope, Lavondyss. My soul is a wood. The light pales through birk and pine, strips of gold that are doorways, gates opening into other lands as the old year dies. I must be brave enough to ride into them. The flames of winter are burning, spirits gather on the edge of dreams and I wake up cold. The frost of the ancient forest speaks a language only the heart understands. It changes in snow – becoming young, the first forest, primeval; ancient pines that survived the Wolf.
I feel a change in my writing too, a new energy that seems to come from an old place. My imagination is at its sharpest around midwinter and over the last few days especially my writing mornings have flown by. It feels strange and satisfying to finally be coming close to capturing the world that has lived inside my head for years. Sometimes it feels like chance, a fluke. I wonder, will these ideas ever run out? Can I really achieve the vision in my head? For despite the productivity and inspiration of midwinter the final words still elude me. I am hurtling towards the end while still seeking answers. What if I can’t find the magic I’m looking for? If my intuitions prove false?
“There is old memory in snow” ~ Robert Holdstock, Lavondyss.
Only weeks ago I stood in the oldest forest of my country and sensed that I was heading in the right direction. The blizzard came and it was an old storm that carried new beginnings. So, when I settle down at my desk for the last time this year I will remember the forest, remember the snow and so finish my own tale of ice and transformation.
It only leaves me to wish you all a Merry Christmas, I hope you have a magical end to the year and may all your dreams come true in 2018. See you on the other side.