A mountain, me, really?
7 May 2015: posted by Niki Barbery Bleyleben
So there I lie on the plateau, under me the central core of fire from which was thrust this grumbling grinding mass of plutonic rock, over me blue air, and between me the fire of the rock and the fire of the sun, scree, soil and water, moss, grass, flower and tree, insect, bird and beast, wind, rain and snow – the total mountain.
– Nan Shepherd, The Living Mountain
I like to walk.
And I like to talk.
But walking and talking at the same time?
When I talk,
I like to sit.
And I like to drink.
And I like to smoke.
If I do any exercise at all, it involves a short sprint from my car to the school gates. This has been the case for nearly a decade. I love dancing (and used to do lots of it back in the day) but one doesn’t really dance and talk. If there is any walking and talking during my average day, it’s at a snails pace alongside my children, articulating any combination of: hurry-up, we’re late! don’t pick that up, it’s dirty! you’ll be okay, let me kiss your knee and make it all better.
But recently, something has shifted inside me. I think I’m under the spell of Big Change.
It’s called Strive! They explained excitedly during my first visit to their offices. We walk the equivalent of two marathons across the Scottish Highlands over two days, and on the third day, we climb Ben Nevis!
We will be a group of 60 to 100 change-makers. You know, those people who inspire, those who use their creativity to influence change across a variety of sectors for young people here in the UK. We will be a mix of educators, artists, policy-makers, entrepreneurs—and we will all be walking and talking; basically brainstorming new ideas for change as we climb, as we strive, up the highest mountain the British Isles have gifted us.
I listened attentively, trying to control my left eyebrow from twitching.
What an amazing challenge, I thought to myself and then my mind drifted as I began to picture this group of super-charged, super-fit, smiling young explorers, dressed in cool looking mountain gear, all standing proudly at the top of Ben Nevis. A flag waving wildly with bright beautiful words: BIG CHANGE
Yes, I thought to myself, this is what we need; more people like this, all striving for change.
And then they smiled back at me and waited politely for me to speak.
Fabulous, what an extraordinary challenge, I said. Let me know what I can do to help—I do know some big changers who might just be physically strong enough, and ambitious enough, to take part.
Well actually, we’d like you to participate in the walk, twinkle-eyed-Essie explained, grinning from cheek to cheek.
Very funny, I responded. Believe me, walking and talking is not my thing.
And that was that. A conversation that was had toward the end of February, at a time when London was still holding tightly onto winter.
But then the cherry blossoms bloomed pink. And then one of my brothers gave me this book. He gently told me that I—that all of us—were born to run.
So in 9 weeks time a group of Big Changers will take to the hills.
The simple truth is, I want to be with them.
It’s all about developing a “growth mind-set”, they tell me.
A growth mind-set? Okay, well let’s see. I wonder if they’ll let me bring a flask for my whiskey?
Inspiring reads to begin this journey:
Nan Shepherd’s manuscript of The Living Mountain was written during the Second World War and lay untouched for more than thirty years before it was finally published.
Born to Run by Christopher McDougall is full of incredible characters, amazing athletic achievements, cutting-edge science and pure inspiration. An epic adventure that began with one simple question: Why does my foot hurt?