Nan Shepherd was a Scottish writer and one of the greatest mountain lover. She lived in Cults, a suburb of Aberdeen in Scotland. Until 1956 she teached English at the Aberdeen College of Education.
Nan loved to walk the hills of the Cairngorms, a mountain range in the eastern Highlands of Scotland. She wrote about her experiences in the Cairngorms in her book “The Living Mountain” during the 1940s, but didn’t publish it until 1977.
A love letter to the Cairngorms
I stumbled over an article about “The Living Mountain” a few months ago and was instantly intrigued. I purchased it right away. It was only during the Christmas holidays when I finally found the time for reading it. I think the quiet time during the holidays was perfect for this book. It is a love letter to the Cairngorms, written in the most perfect English I have ever read. So playful, so many powerful words and phrases, so much love for the mountains.
Nan describes the Cairngorms in such a pictorial way, I have the feeling like having been there myself. She has a way with words I never have seen before.
The plateau. Water. Being
Nan describes her beloved Cairngorms in twelve chapters named after the elements, the characteristics of the plateau and the nature within. Every chapter is a praise of the mountains and the connections she developed with nature while being on the plateau. Her observations of the elements and their power show how small humans are in comparison. Nature is powerful: it can be wonderfully beautiful one time and the next it can be cruel and relentless.
A must read for mountain lovers
I am grateful for stumbling over this book by chance. It opened a whole new world for me as it shows beautifully how much power nature has over us and how content one is when connecting with it, becoming one with it. I often lack the calm and peace of being in the moment and wish for being able to just be. I’d love sitting on the top of a mountain and really taking in the view and actually relax. Instead I am always euphoric after reaching the top and therefore everything but calm and relaxed. More so, I am sure hungry as hell and my only thought left is where to get the best post-mountain meal. Shame on me. 😉
Life balance: Take a break
So this is something I still need to work on. Not only in the nature but life in general. I am always on the run with my next project or appointment in mind and although I can relax while reading a book or watching Netflix, it isn’t as relaxing and recreating as becoming one with the nature. I love outdoor sports and I love achieving my goals but sometimes we all need to step on the brake and take an actual look at our surroundings, open ourselves to it. Nan Shepherd’s “The Living Mountain” is in my opinion a great instigator for becoming more attentive towards our beautiful world and its powerful nature.
ABOUT THE BOOK:
The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd
Canongate Books, 2011
First published in Great Britain in 1977 by Aberdeen University Press