The grey of the slate and of the mountains in the haze

Jun 9, 2024

The grey of the slate and of the mountains in the haze and of the stratocumulus filled sky is a far cry from the grey of the roads and of the walls and dusty windows of abandoned buildings.

Polaroid style images of the North Wales coast and Navelwort growing out from a slate wall

Three days in the grey (and green and blue) of North Wales quietened my mind. It cut the power from the persistent white noise of every day and filled its space with the rush of waterfalls, a jazz ensemble of birdsong, whipping sea breeze and rhythmic waves. Five years of no more than a day away from the city causes a build up of mental clutter, it seems. This clutter is clamorous and demanding but no contest for the cheers of nature in early summer.

After all that time without a real break I was frayed and on edge again, days speeding by, doing a lot yet feeling as though achieving nothing. My attention was constantly hungry but I wasn’t offering it any sustenance, just a diet of internet junk.

The rugged shapes of Eyri and its rejection of unnaturally straight edges, except for the ancient jagged slate of course, is easy on the eye and the mind. Its stretches of coast punctuated by bays and beaches, framed by mountains, hills and woodland made it possible for me to reset. Navelwort in full flower lights up walls and slopes like candelabras and I read that is a member of the saxifragales plant order, alongside my favourite, saxifraga urbium. I know there are thousands of species of saxifragales but I conclude that their presence is like a warm welcome to a visitor that appreciates them so much.

The timing of being here is perfect in other ways too. In the tiny, tentative blue tit mother feeding her inexplicably fragile fledgling dots. This perilous and precious life stage between nest and independence lasts just a few weeks. And in the greater spotted woodpecker, landing so close by that I can identify the dramatic markings I’d seen many times in pictures. Only because I was able to stop, here, for now, that I saw them and I question why on earth is bird watching mocked as a boring person’s hobby? Colourful creatures who travel through the sky are surely magical.

This is the wonder that gifts you escape from commute queues, late hours drenched in screen light and schedules of work and obligations.

Holidays like this offer a chance to refocus and reinvent in the way that a New Year traditionally does. The trip to North Wales put me in a state of mind that this (whatever ‘this’ happens to be) is possible but most importantly reminded me to seek out the things that nourish you with the energy to do so.