Having Enough Time
This Saturday, we had a fleeting taste of summer. We toasted Eileen's birthday with thimble-sized samples of blackcurrant whiskey liqueur at the street fair. Touring Caernarfon Castle, we disoriented over and over in the spiral staircases of the polygonal turrets, hearing carnival screams and then music, watching the flow of crowds and then sea from the many tower faces. I lay beneath a tree to read for two hours and didn't mind the damp grass a bit. The sunshine felt so lovely on my legs.
That's over now.
On Sunday morning, we checked out of the uncharacteristically delightful Airbnb we'd been staying at (laundry machine en suite, a tea table, an expanse of plush gray carpet). Through the six big windows of our temporary room, we watched the fog roll in. Then strapped packs to our bodies and went out into it.
It wasn't all that bad, but we did sit in the bus shelter for nearly an hour in our puffy coats before ascending to the youth hostel at Pen Y Pass, and then three more in a chilly cafe until check-in.
For a hostel, the lodging is pretty good: we shelled out for a private room for the week. It's a high price for bunk beds and stained carpet tiles, but we have access to a well-equipped kitchen- the most food autonomy we've had all trip- and the mountain paths leave directly from the door.
We're in Snowdonia now. It's rugged, astoundingly beautiful, and much colder than the coastline below. It mists actively, clouds rubbing up against you when the wind blows. Just to stand outside, I want full rain gear and the gloves and thermal shirt I haven't reached for yet this trip.
I'm content. Our week is unplanned, and we have the gear for whatever suits us. A calm has settled; the knot my back has been holding for months is finally almost gone. The body craves movement, and the mind, quiet. I don't owe anybody anything right now.
Into the space, I have time just to perceive. I feel the wind, look out over the lands, write in my head while I walk. Morning and evening, I practice yoga from videos on my phone. I play with words, with photography. I have time to be curious again.
We've been on our trip for two weeks now, and we have four more to go. We cover little ground, thoroughly: the whole of our trip fits into a radius of about sixty miles, and most of that is the distance across the Irish Sea.
Even so, we won't see all the beautiful places. We're not walking the whole coast path, and there are ridges we will leave unclimbed. Standing stones will stand a few more years without my ever seeing them.
More valuable than the sites is the urge and the freedom to explore, or the understanding of our true desires: perhaps simply to do nothing for a day. It has been hard, in the rush of things, to know what I actually want, much less to go after it.
Travel, for me, is a way of making space. Often, it is my only time free of what I am supposed to do.
I like when a trip is long enough that by the time I go home, I really want to, because there is something I am running towards again. Change is good because it is disruptive, because it is too easy to accept the mundane. Here is a place where normal cannot sink in.
We go for a walk in the evening. At first, the tiny drops of water pelt against our rain hoods. But as we descend towards the valley, Eileen spots a patch of blue sky that grows until the landscape is drenched in sunlight. Every blade of grass shimmers with tiny orbs of light.
Our shadows are long as we climb the hill back up to the hostel. We’ve done little today, and haven’t planned tomorrow. It’s almost eight in the evening, but still so light that when a trail tempts us out for further views, we go. With enough time, the only guide that matters is the heart’s pull.
Previous: Welsh Language Sovereignty | Next: Climbing Yr Wyddfa and Y Lliwedd