Mountains of the Mind by Robert Mcfarlane

  • James Hutton, Theory of the Earth: ‘The result therefore of our present enquiry is, that we find no vestige of a beginning, no prospect of an end.’
  • Above all, geology makes explicit challenges to our understanding of time. It giddies the sense of here-and-now. The imaginative experience of what the writer John McPhee memorably called ‘deep time’ – the sense of time whose units are not days, hours, minutes or seconds but millions of years or tens of millions of years – crushes the human instant; flattens it to a wafer. Contemplating the immensities of deep time, you face, in a way that is both exquisite and horrifying, the total collapse of your present, compacted to nothingness by the pressures of pasts and futures to extensive to envisage. And it is a physical as well as a cerebral horror, for to acknowledge that the hard rock of a mountain is vulnerable to the attrition of time is of necessity to reflect on the appalling transience of the human body.
  • …the calligraphy, the majuscule of the valleys and peaks, the intricate engravings of streams and rivulets, and the splendid serifs of ridge top and valley bottom.
  • ‘If there be a precipice, a cataract, a mountain of snow, etc. in one part of the scene, the nascent ideas of fear and horror magnify and enliven all other ideas, and by degrees pass into pleasures by suggesting the security from pain.’ – David Hartley, 1749.
  • Then, unexpectedly, it began to rain: plump raindrops which splashed upon the pale grey of the rocks we were sitting on. The rain partitioned the air, bruised the stone, and plucked the lake up into a field of fleur-de-lys.
  • How strange is this wild urge for rapid locomotion seizing people of all nations at the same instant. ‘The dead go swiftly,’ says the ballad. Are we dead then? Or could this be some presentiment of the approaching doom of our planet, possessing us to multiply the means of communication so we may travel over its entire surface in the little time left to us?
  • Galleons of cloud were at full sail, racing slowly over the blueness. The sunshine was hard and bright, the snow turning the light to its own white frequency.
  • Cairngorm mountains, the empty wilderness of the Monadhliaths, the Grey Hills, the great peaks of the Rough Bounds of Knoydart-Ladhar Bheinn, the Hill of the Claw; Meall Buidhe, the Yellow Hill; and Luinne Bheinn, the Hill of Anger.
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