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Unto The Hills
On Days like this

THERE will be other days as lovely, never doubt it. The leaves fall and the glass runs down; but for others they will come again, the golden days that never die.

For the two of us, though -- for you and for me -- it may be that this day will come but once; yet, if we are wise, the mystery and wonder of it will remain with us for ever.

It is on days like this, when the heather blows in soft waves across the moor, that the heart is taken back to the old songs and the old spells. The hills are once more the chosen abode of the Little People, and the green glens are full of the enchantment of forgotten centuries. What secret lies hidden in the dark forests that march up the hoary flank of the mountain? Walk in them -- listen to the pine-needles crunching under your feet -- smell the bitter-sweet fragrance of the sun-warmed trees -- and you will still be none the wiser. But you will know that, whatever it is, it is magic; and you will be warmed through and through by the glory of it. In spirit, you will become, for a moment, a pagan and a child of Nature, looking with eyes of understanding upon an untouched world.

Do you not hear the faery violins of the grasses as they bend and bow to the breeze? They are playing for you. The trees are touching their harps for you -- the heather-bells are murmuring a song which reaches out to all the lost and lonely places of your soul. You are happy for the sun-kissed summer flowers -- and sad for the broken reed at the edge of the mourning stream. Whatever else you have known or failed to know about life, you feel that this day will live forever in your heart.

"For this day," you say to yourself, “is mine-and this day I will keep until all the sands of life are washed away by all the seas of time. For in this day I have stood on the hills again after long absence, and they have offered me renewal, and the vagabond heart of me has come home.”

It is on days like this that the very air seems to speak with faery voices; and the eyes are opened to unimagined enchantment, so that while the senses cry “This is madness" the spirit cries “This is real!”

Clear as a bell, and beautiful almost beyond bearing, the song of a thousand burns ripples over the strings of the heart. The grass is more perilously green than ever before; the mist a dryad's veil blowing in the wind. The dew lies like tears on the faces of the harebells, but they are tears shed for beauty, and not for gricf.

Down in the glen, the shaggy red cattle stand at peace under the tall trees and the woman at the bothy door forgets her weary task and looks away up into the mountains, with that in her eyes for which there are no words.

For all of life which is hungry and all of life which is sad mellows, on days like this, into a quietness, a contentment which yet has in it an element of the forlorn. Almost, we understand the eternal mystery at the core of things; and deep within us is born again something of the child looking innocent-eyed upon an enchanted world, or of the lover who has plucked the stars for the hair of his beloved.

On this day, we can forget about life as we have known it -- not because we are callous, or insensible of the great tasks that yet remain for us to do -- but because this is the one great day that may not come again; the day wherein we can draw strength from the present to meet the future.

We are out of the city now. The smoke no longer chokes us; the dust has been blown away by the hill-wind. The amber waters of the singing burn have already washed a little of the grime from our souls. We are back at the heart of the earth, alone-and wondering if our sense of values has always been the right one. Does money matter so much, after all? It will not buy us anything lovelier or more precious than sunlight. Does popularity matter -- popularity with the little, social-climbing people who so often creep into our lives? It cannot give us happiness; and there is no-one in a cocktail-bar who can talk to us with the voice of the hill-streams. We have suffered, little or much, in our journey towards this moment? It is forgotten; for the journey is ended, and the moment ours, to keep for evermore.

Yet, because of this day, and what it has meant to us, we will not forget the sufferings of others. How many there are now living in darkness, whose work entitles them to greater material comfort than ourselves! But we will remember, from henceforth, that to give them material things will not be enough. We must also give them beauty, as this day has given beauty to us.

All this, we learn and repeat to ourselves as we stand listening to the voice of the stream, whispering its message among the great hills. Our thoughts are neither clear nor coherent; but, anew, we have the sense of striving towards something outside our own lives, and dimly -- so dimly! -- we glimpse the glory of the great pattern of which we, too, are forever a part. There is so much we would understand and cannot. So much we would accomplish -- had we but strength and time. Yet there is one thing of which we can be sure-one truth in which we may find rest:

Life passes. Beauty passes not away for ever, nor dies except to live again. The lined and furrowed faces of the hills look down at us across a thousand-thousand years -- and, as always, they are wise and lovely, the faces of peace.

Soon, then, the evening comes. And, reaching out into those mysterious silences of the spirit where each of us stands forever alone, we hear as a half-forgotten tune the age-old cry of the wandering heart:

"Take me in your arms, O Mother Earth, for I am weary and would rest. Even as this day, I have been born to mirth and tears, the shadow of my life drifting, among a million other shadows over the hills and cities of my little world. There has been the grey rain of early morning; the noon sunshine like a flame to light my way; and now the purple dusk and the dim stars and the soft sound of the eternal waters washing over my soul. Night and Nothingness are on the hill; and, in an hour, this day of days will be drawn into the empty spaces, beyond thought, beyond dreams, beyond life.

"So I, when my hour comes, would pass into the Great Unknown, neither remembering nor forgetting, slipping as silently as a cloud over the rim of the world, or fading like colour upon the darkening face of the sea.

"And, as this day, I, too, in my time may rise again, to walk with Beauty down remembered ways. For so runs the chain all that lives shall die; and all that dies shall live anew.

A summer day, Loch Lubnaig

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