Finding Philosophy in Woods

One very positive aspect of January is that there are definite signs of spring. The snowdrops bring light into even the darkest days of winter – a sign that soon we’ll be getting longer days and warmer weather.


Snowdrops on a cloudy January day bring hope. Suddenly more things seem possible, the world seems to be less insane. Albert Camus once said In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer. I think that being out in the woods and seeing sights like the drifts of snowdrops can make everyone feel less vulnerable, feel that batteries are being recharged.

Earlier this month, in another wood not far from home, there was evidence of the damage that had been done by storms in the past. Many trees had been uprooted and over time they had been colonised by mosses and lichens. Not only that, some had put out new growth and where there had been branches, the tree had sprouted saplings, growing at right-angles to the fallen trunk. These were thriving, evidence of nature’s powerful resilience and ability to overcome adversity. We can take that as an inspiration for our own lives.

In 1888, German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche first stated, Out of life’s school of war—what doesn’t kill me, makes me stronger.



Trees and the seasons

It’s hard to imagine what living in an area where there are hardly any trees would be like. Here we watch the changing seasons in a landscape where trees play a huge part in defining whether it is still late summer of whether we are moving into autumn or from autumn into early winter.


Each season brings its own particular beauty. Just now – early November we see the delicate tracery of the bare branches silhouetted against the sky. Either in the glow of dawn,a grey afternoon or the fiery shades of sunset, the delicate skeletal patterns are every bit as beautiful as the leafy, if more colourful autumn vistas.

I am reminded of someone who dreaded autumn because to her it was a time of dying. Ever since I was a child loving the walk home from school through drifts of crunchy autumn leaves or, after rain the glistening glow of birch and maple jewels, I’ve always looked forward to autumn.

Autumn is a time for taking stock, for winding down; a time for lighting the fire, toasting crumpets and sitting with the cat curled up with us listening to quiet jazz playing. (He’s quite a cool cat who loves Bill Evans and Ben Webster)  This is the season where normally we could share and experience hygge with friends. The hard part now is that with the restrictions necessary because of Covid 19, we can only share such things through the medium of Zoom. Thankfully we can still see and chat to folk using Zoom and Skype etc. How much worse would it be without the modern means of communication?

It’s time however to think of those who are homeless and not just think about them but do something.

The Country’s No Place for the Homeless

 ‘It’s not easy being poor here

Not everyone who’s poor

wants to live in the town.’

She said.

‘Where can I find a home?

Houses let for holidays

not for people like me.’

She said.

‘I walk miles and miles

looking for work.

I don’t want to be poor.’

She said.

‘They don’t want you here.

Not if you’ve no money.’

‘Go back to the town!’

They said

Each day the tiny figure

tramps the lanes.

head high, proud stiff back.

‘I get angry.’ She said.

Back walking in the hills

Just getting used to the new version of Word Press – so this page might look a bit odd! Some things I’ve yet to master …

With the restrictions of Covid 19 and uncertainties regarding health, our walks this year have been far more limited than usual.

It must have been last November when we last did any ‘real’ walks up in the hills. With some trepidation – because when embarking on a circular walk around a large loch there aren’t any short cuts, we left the car at 10.00.

There were far more visitors about than usual, but many were heading in the opposite direction to us as they were setting off to climb The Merrick. We’ve done that, but today we were less ambitious.

This is a walk we have done countless times in the last eighteen years since we moved here. As we walk round, there are memories of the walk done with family and friends, places we’ve stopped to take photos in all seasons and all weathers. It is a very photogenic place!

Over the years the scenery has changed as trees have been felled and harvested, and young birch trees have created a very different environment. In other places, storms have uprooted some of the giants on the hillside but nature has already started to recolonise the huge walls of roots.

In the autumn, or any other season, this is quite an inspirational place. A version of the following poem was published in The Dawn Treader poetry magazine published by Indigo Dreams and it’s also included in ‘From the Mountains to the Sea’ a collection of poems and photographs inspired by the beautiful scenery in this hidden gem of Scotland. All profits from the book are going to Arthritis UK. Unfortunately sales this year have been hit by the effects of Covid 19 which put an end to a number of readings planned throughout the year. Anyone wishing to buy a copy (for £10) just has to contact me ( with contact details.

Glen Trool 

Our path cuts a rough scar

on the hillside above the loch.

Gnarled hands of roots, scapulae

of stone, trip the unwary.

Emerald mosses cover, transform

hard rocks into scatter cushions.

Across the loch, rock scabbed hills

rise, form a distant glowing palette.

Russets mix with greens and ochre.

Below us, a watercolour of trees

shivers in the autumn sun on this,

no peaceful scene in the past.

Walking along, we recall the time

when Bruce claimed his victory

of the few against the many, by

rolling boulders down steep slopes,

taking adversaries by surprise.

We look down, hear ghostly echoes

of  men’s battle cries, of maimed horses,

see the graveyard loch of the defeated.

Cover photo – Glen Trool in autumn



The Hedge

Early morning, I pause,

listen, absorb the scene.

All is peaceful as

Emanuel Ax plays Brahms.

Beyond the garden,  fields

edged with hawthorn, are now

studded with ruby for autumn.

Not long ago, the hedge

was cloaked with bridal white.

Time has passed all too fast.

I long for time to stand still as

Emanuel Ax plays Brahms.


In these times of economic and political upheaval, we need to stop if we can and take time to just be; time to soak up the healing benefits of the natural world where changes are continually happening, but they are reliable – apart from occasional unexpected freakish events. The changing seasons are undeniably not as predictable as they were once. We may experience unseasonal hot weather and periods of drought or flooding, but there are still some constants.

We know that soon the swallows will be leaving us and we know that the geese will soon be arriving from Svalbard. Those migrants face an arduous journey but at least when they reach their destination they will be welcomed.

The music of man and the music of the natural world – gifts in a turbulent world.