Why I Write Fantasy: Memories of Nature and Other Fragments

Glen Clova, orienteering like a ranger or druid or both, the summit of Arthur’s Seat at sunrise, the Trossachs and trout over fire, Loch Katrine swimming, the shock of freezing, the amazement of finding warmer currents and following their course, shivering anew every time they were lost, wet bracken and green ravines down to running water over black rock, narrow paths through clinging leaves that laid cold hands through damp clothing. Low cloud, climbs over muddy slopes and loose stones, and the danger of teachers walking off cliffs, calling to each other in the mist to be sure of location. Walks along overgrown railway cuttings, balancing on bridge parapets over drops that would kill the small boy I was. Rapidly grew out of such risk taking. The fields and copses of the borders, the wooded estate of Mellerstain with its fields and paddocks and farm tracks for a boy with dogs, a cat, and the occasional horse to explore. The hourglass eye of a horse, looking, as nostrils quivered in search of treats in little pink hands. The smell of harness and brass, molasses and oats, of ammonia and dung, the taste of hay dust in the air as you moved the bales, the dance of it catching the light, the straw scratching at your skin and then itching as you got it down to put in the stables after you cleaned them. Earlier memories of churning water and sky, low shoulders of land approaching, heather covered slopes and a stag that didn’t want to share them – though I doubt he really chased me, as I think an adult deer would easily have run down the 8 year old I was at the time, for all my terrified speed. The revenge of venison for Christmas dinner. Orion over sycamore trees, Drumbrae hill at night, the dark paths filled with dangers, all alone with my imagined and palpable fears, the cobalt of a predawn sky over Edinburgh, a special colour that never lasted long. Frost on stone and crazed pavements as breath hung in the air, dew turning to crystals to crunch underfoot, the sharp smell of silage and a hundred cows, udders bursting as they trooped in for milking. The silence of pine woods, the brown empty spaces of the needle covered ground between the high trees, the annoyance of spindly dead branches blocking your path when the ways got tight. The charge of water past a white prow, cold spray in the air, hands lifting me out over the waves, rushing beneath. Chestnut trees and the contented calls of pigeons on misty mornings, cooing to the sunrise, a gentle wake up call.

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