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Assynt Ashes

Today I walked through one of my favourite Assynt places, off the path well trodden, just me, birds, deer ... and ash from a recent wild fire. I couldn't but think of MacCaig's frogs and toads, always abundant around here, yet today conspicuous by their absence.

A flashback to earlier this year: I am just the other side of this little rise, watching a pair of soaring eagles, beyond the reach of my telephoto lens. A brief conversation with a passing local. I mention the delight of walking in the young birch woodland, the pleasure of seeing it burst into life after winter. He worries about it being destroyed by wild fire, had seen a few around here. I think him somewhat paranoid, I can't imagine it happening, not here.

Now I am weeping among the ashes. Over a tree, of which this landscape could bear many more, up in a rock face, years of carving out life away from human intrusion brought to an abrupt end, for what? Over this invasive, all destroying, parasitic species that we call human, that has long outlived its usefulness. Different tears, of sadness, of frustration.

I pity such emotional poverty that needs fire to find fulfilment in the midst of the wonders of nature. I curse those who encourage it, those who feed, and feed on, this neediness. The neo-romantic evangelists preaching Salvation through Adventure to electronic pews of awestruck followers. I loath what 'adventure' has come to represent in recent years, the endless, selfie-powered quest for publicity, for likes, the k-tching sound likes make, the distortion of reality they inflict, the mutual ego stroking.

Out of the ashes, from distance at least, life is slowly getting reborn. Yet, this is not the rebirth of a landscape that has adapted to being regularly swept by fire. On closer inspection, the new greenery is just couch grass and bracken, the latter rapidly colonising the space where heather once was. This is a landscape yet again reshaped by man, and yet again for worse not better. For what? For the delusion of primeval 'authenticity' (carefully to be documented by a smartphone for the 'benefit' of those less authentic)?

Can we please stop looking into the pond to see how adventurous we are, and maybe, just once, look for what is there instead?

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