The joy of living…

cuilin ridge from Sgur nan Gilean

It is that hole in the middle.

I could be talking about Christmas and  New Year. I am blessed by time off work, and sit waiting for old friends to negotiate the mess that the storms have made of Greenock and join us for our regular NY house gathering. This may well be the last time we meet in this old place- assuming a hoped for sale goes through. Who knows where we will be in a year?

Who knows where any of us will be in a year?

I could also be talking about the hole in the middle of living. We start out with a million possibilities, even achieve a few of them. At the end of the day, no matter how many mountain tops we reach, the best of us remains to be found in family and the love we leave behind stored up in the DNA of our young ones (now perhaps not so young.)

I was beautifully reminded of this by a song on an album called ‘The Joy of Living, a tribute to Ewan McColl‘; a gift from my brother in law. I have always been a little negative towards McColl. Despite his towering folk and radical left wing credentials, he always seemed to be to be a stern and austere figure, who made stern and austere music. This album changed all that for me. It is full of incredible songs; songs of working men, Gypsy persecution, and this one, written after age had prevented him completing a climb up a Suilven. (Not the picture above, that is one of my favourites, taken from high on the Cuillin on Skye.)

If it does not make you weep there is something wrong with your soul.

Farewell you northern hills, you mountains all goodbye
Moorland and stony ridges, crags and peaks goodbye
Glyder Fach farewell, Cul Beag, Scafell, cloud-bearing Suilven
Sun warmed rock and the cold of Bleaklow’s frozen sea
The snow and the wind and the rain of hills and mountains
Days in the sun and the tempered wind and the air like wine
And you drink and you drink till you’re drunk
On the joy of living

Farewell to you my love, my time is almost done
Lie in my arms once more until the darkness comes
You filled all my days, held the night at bay, dearest companion
Years pass by and they’re gone with the speed of birds in flight
Our life like the verse of a song heard in the mountains
Give me your hand then love and join your voice with mine
We’ll sing of the hurt and pain and the joy of living

Farewell to you my chicks, soon you must fly alone
Flesh of my flesh, my future life, bone of my bone
May your wings be strong, may your days be long, safe
be your journey
Each of you bears inside of you the gift of love
May it bring you light and warmth and the pleasure of giving
Eagerly savour each new day and the taste of its mouth
Never lose sight of the thrill
And the joy of living

Take me to some high place of heather, rock and ling
Scatter my dust and ashes, feed me to the wind
So that I will be part of all you see, the air you are breathing
I’ll be part of the curlew’s cry and the soaring hawk
The blue milkwort and the sundew hung with diamonds
I’ll be riding the gentle wind that blows through your hair
Reminding you how we shared
In the joy of living

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