In the 1800’s romantic poets like William Wordsworth, landscape painters like William Turner captured the awe experienced by high places. After all the well-marked fields, the metalled roads, the passing traffic, the barking dogs, the cows, the tractors driving in and out you find you are alone in the mountains and you seem to step back into something primordial and you may as well be a terrified animist or a wary hunter seeking great antlered deer as the clouds open on beetling cliffs and the sun rewards you in a miraculous shaft of light, secret shining lakes. Those are the views when you pause, they are like rare rewards given to you after all your constant trudging through bog and your tip toeing on sedge mounds and stones , a pleasure you remind yourself few others would aspire to or experience. You are really alone .These are wild places where you could get lost and if you sprain or twist an ankle all that alone vulnerability impresses upon you, concentrates your mind and your eyes on those white stakes tracing the way ethereally ahead of you over these blank spaces. I have my map constantly at hand to realise that, that inviting track to the left is not to be climbed as it leads to a cul-de–sac mountain that is off my track. My track is marked on the map in dashed red lines as heading to and crossing a traverse of the Caha ridge leading southward onto the outward cliffs of the Sugarloaf. It is a clear day and I have the reassurance of matching the ground with my mental construct on the map. I stop just below the junction of my ascending ridge with the Caha ridge. It is the same ridge that I have been with ever since I left Glengarriff at noon. It is just before you reach the apex of the top that often the greatest view is to be realised and one half of all that was close and incomprehensible at the foot of the mountain now is revealed and one half of all that you can possibly see, everything north, the enfolding circle of the Caha mountains back around to where Glengarriff is hidden below and the pale blue sea is block ended by the enfolding rocky ribs of the Sugar loaf’s cliffs.
My stop has one of those awe inspiring views favoured by hill walking books and magazines where the lonely hillwalker, stick in support is pictured beside a great promontory gazing at the beetling cliffs of a mountain beyond. Edmund Burke named that feeling in the 18thc for the first time as the Sublime. It will be my highlight for the day, what Wordsworth I remember from my school day poetry book called
“A sense sublime…..
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns?
And the round ocean and the living air…
A lover of the meadows and the woods
And mountains; ……
The guardian of my heart, and soul
Of all my moral being.”
It is good you feel that someone has captured that unique emotion in great rolling iambic metre, capturing a time and movement back then when a whole pilgrimage of back to nature was launched and preached to the city dwellers. Yet it is an aspirational, even bourgeois call, a call that motivates men and women to seek out unique eye framing scenes of the countryside, each remembered view to be carried home and pondered on like a trophy. The trophy in this digital age can be captured in a million pixels on the viewer’s mobile phone.
“They flash upon the inward eye which is the bliss of solitude”.