Snippets

Inspiration From Mountain Tops

I knew I had to pay attention when I came across one of my blogging mentors, Rosa Say, from Hawaii, quoting the words of a Scottish mountaineer. Rosa was sharing the oft-cited words of W H Murray, from his book The Scottish Himalayan Expedition - here’s a short excerpt from the quote

“… the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too”

I was intrigued by this mountaineer whose words had woven another strand of connection between myself and Rosa, so I borrowed another two of his books, Mountaineering in Scotland and Undiscovered Scotland, from the library.

Mountaineering in Scotland opens in Glen Brittle, base camp for the Cuillins, on Skye. Skye, of course, is one of my inspiring places and although I’ve never (yet) got to one of the peaks, I have walked from Glen Brittle up to Coire Lagan (pictured), high enough to get a sense of the awesome power of the mountains.

A few pages in and I can tell that the experience of climbing these hills is etched into Murray’s bones, his consciousness. After a swim at Loch Coruisk he writes about the experience (yes, it is a little over the top, but bear with me):

“The swim was unique in my own experience because all five senses were feasted to the full. The sharp sting of that first dive cleared at one stroke the fogs of lethargy from the mind - at one stroke the world stood vivid. The corrie was full of sun and the song of the burn, gay with the flash of many colours and the dance of light on the loch, fresh with the scents of blossom and an aromatic tang of plants in morning air… The ecstasy of that morning is bright after eight years.”

That the experience is so vivid is important. Murray was climbing in the 1930s, before the outbreak of war. In 1942 he was captured and taken prisoner-of-war. He spent the next three years in POW camps. While he was in prison he started writing Mountaineering In Scotland, on Red Cross toilet paper. The manuscript was found, and destroyed.

His response? Simple. He set about writing it again.

The book was published after the war, in 1947.

And that’s why I am sharing this story with you today (also the anniversary of Murray’s birth), because there is something about that dogged determination to write that book, to share that experience, that moves me deeply.

I am still trying to work out what this word “inspiration” means to me. But one thing’s for sure.

It’s something to do with the feeling I get when I think about this man in a POW camp, dreaming of Skye, and finding the will to write.


This piece is a contribution to a month long conversation on writing and inspiration. Please subscribe to the feed if you’d like to get future articles. There are three ways you can subscribe: by RSS feed, direct to your inbox, or a weekly digest.

Joanna Young, The Confident Writing Coach
Because our words count


W H Murray: 18 March 1913 to 19 March 1996

Wikipedia on Murray

Undiscovered Scotland feature on Murray

Books: Mountaineering in Scotland and Undiscovered Scotland

Related Posts with Thumbnails

16 Responses to “Inspiration From Mountain Tops”

  1. On March 18, 2008 at 5:40 pm Rosa Say responded with... #

    Mahalo Joanna for sharing this weaving of our connection, I so appreciate this in a couple of ways over and beyond the spirit spilling between us :) First, that quote itself; it has been near constant in my life for a very, very long time and is quite meaningful to me. Knowing more about W.H. Murray this way —through your wonderful efforts— is profound, and I admire him, his intention, and his perseverance all the more. Second, as will probably not surprise you, sense of place. The waters of that pool ‘spoke’ to Murray, and your mountains speak to you. What pure joy that we all get to listen this way too. As happens so often here at Confident Writing, and wherever else you share with us, you are the inspiration Joanna.

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  2. On March 18, 2008 at 5:45 pm Karen Swim responded with... #

    Joanna, thank you for introducing me to this Scotsman. I am going to hunt down these books as I have been inspired by the words you’ve shared. Reading about his determination reminds me of the capability of the human spirit and of course inspires me that passion for telling our stories can drive us to accomplish more than we dreamed possible. Thank you Joanna for being a continuous source of inspiration to me.

    Karen

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  3. On March 18, 2008 at 5:59 pm Solomon responded with... #

    Hi,Joanna!
    Thank you for introducing this inspiring writer. I never heard of him in my life. Now, I’m not going to live without reading his books you mentioned. It’s a great pleasure knowing his courage and your generosity to share about this great man and his life.Kindly let me know if we can get these books in India, or ar there any e-books of him.
    Solomon

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  4. On March 18, 2008 at 6:24 pm Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Solomon, I’m glad the story moved you.

    I’m afraid it might be a little difficult to get hold of the books in India, though you could always take a look in a second hand book shop or a library…

    The books are still in print via Amazon uk (linked in the post) and Amazon.com, see shortened link below

    http://tinyurl.com/yt4922

    You’ll also learn a little more about him from the links on wikipedia and Undiscovered Scotland

    I hope this gives you enough to be getting on with

    Joanna

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  5. On March 18, 2008 at 6:26 pm Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Karen, thank you so much for these words. How I do treasure your comments!

    The books might not be to everyone’s taste as a read - and you might want to try the library first. Then again reading about these wild and wonderful places might just further tempt you to come over and visit us in Scotland…

    Joanna

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  6. On March 18, 2008 at 6:28 pm Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Rosa, thank you.

    It was a pleasure to research this story, finding the connections from your own piece, the words you quoted, and Murray’s story… via some places that are very dear to my own heart.

    It’s definitely given me a clearer sense of what inspiration means to me as a result.

    And thank you so much for your comment about what I do here. I love writing here, but it’s so much more fulfilling to get feedback like this, to know that my words do make a difference.

    Joanna

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  7. On March 18, 2008 at 11:00 pm amypalko responded with... #

    How moving that he wrote this manuscript recalling his encounter with this fantastic landscape, whilst he was deprived of the connection, only to have the fledgling narrative destroyed. To begin again and to achieve completion must have been truly a euphoric experience.

    I think tomorrow I’ll be tackling the 4×4 post, and I’m pretty sure that I’m going to be writing about the environment as inspiration. Like Murray, I find that being within an environment that makes my heart sing, causes my pen to move faster across the page. A connection with the land, for me, is key to my writing experience.

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  8. On March 19, 2008 at 8:05 am Solomon responded with... #

    Thank you, Joanna! I’ll try here and read about him through the wikipedia. I appreciate your writing and want to read a great deal here.
    Solomon

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  9. On March 19, 2008 at 9:11 am Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Thank you Solomon, I hope you enjoy what you find.

    Amy, you’re right, the story works on many levels (as the best stories do). Sense of place is very important to me too and I love the way you express it in your work, through your writing and your photographs. I’m looking forward to seeing what you come up with in your 4 * 4 piece!

    Joanna

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  10. On March 19, 2008 at 2:13 pm Cath Lawson responded with... #

    Hi Joanna - this is an inspiring story and also one of great courage and persistence. And if he was able to write in those conditions with limited resources, none of us have an excuse for not being able to write.

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  11. On March 19, 2008 at 2:35 pm Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Cath, that’s pretty much how it made me feel too - although I guess although that when you have the inspiration the determination and the will power flow a lot more easily.

    Joanna

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  12. On April 5, 2008 at 7:19 pm Managing with Aloha Coaching responded with... #

    Hau‘oli la hanau to Joanna Young!

    Surely you know Joanna by now too: She is the personification of our Ho‘ohana Community in Scotland! Today is her birthday. Because of Joanna, I can now spell Edinburgh right the first time, without checking, and knowing that she is

    ReplyReply
  13. On August 22, 2008 at 2:13 pm Edinburgh Lover responded with... #

    That’s an interesting quote about “… the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too”, but I wonder if that’s really the case, that forces of providence in the universe are at all shaken or moved simply due to an individuals commitment? Rather, I think providence works of it’s own nature (personally speaking).

    ReplyReply
  14. On August 23, 2008 at 8:48 pm Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    I think we could have an interesting philosophical conversation about this one! I’m not entirely sure where I stand on it. I do think that we see and perceive things differently when we open our minds and throw off our limiting beliefs - maybe that allows us to enjoy what providence has to offer… or was offering us anyway, but we just couldn’t see it?

    ReplyReply

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Inspiration From Fire Breathing Writing Dragons | Confident Writing - August 5, 2008

    [...] Joanna Young, pointed out, in a recent article, WH Murray wrote his most inspirational work whilst he was in a Prisoner of War Camp. I can’t [...]

  2. So What Is This Stupid Box In Your Head? - October 10, 2008

    [...] As Joanna Young, pointed out, in a recent article, WH Murray wrote his most inspirational work whilst he was in a Prisoner of War Camp. I can’t imagine that he was living in ideal conditions and it wasn’t the prisoner of war camp he was writing about, it was the mountains in Scotland. He didn’t need to be there to capture the most vivid and haunting descriptions in his writing. He simply used his imagination. And you can too. [...]

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