DRAGON AND THE MOON AND THE MOUNTAIN
by Debbie Bayne
June I went on a camping and walking holiday in the
Sierra Nevada Mountains in southern
Spain. This is the story of my holiday.
The week has been organised to coincide with the full
moon. On the first night I lie in my tent,
the flap open, moon-bathing all night. I feel like a
newly hatched chick in a high nest on a ledge,
as though Iım perched on the edge of the world 4,500
feet up. Iıve never felt so securely and
safely held by the earth before; caressed and cradled,
softly supported, looked after. Iım in awe
and wonder at the moonlight and the strength of the
earth beneath me. I donıt sleep. Iım hot and
wakeful, excited, astonished, peaceful; a whole procession
of things. The moon bathes me and I
expose as much skin to its blue liquid-light as I can.
Itıs not like sunlight, it doesn't burn but feels
much more powerful, it sinks right through my skin and
mingles with my blood, working alchemy on me.
I get up in the morning knowing that something has happened
- Iım changing. I feel that I've been
touched by something so big that I canıt name it.
It happens to me every night, and every morning I get
up grinning and speechless.
During the day there is sun and the land soaks it up,
stores it, basks in it, like a lizard or a snake,
and then radiates it so that heat infuses me, penetrates
me through my feet as we walk. Each of us
walks at a different pace, so we walk mainly alone,
meeting up to rest. I like this aloneness. My
holiday has turned into a quest, and questing is mostly
We climb the highest mountain on mainland Spain. Itıs
called Mulhacen and is 11,411 feet high.
It takes two days. The first day is horrible, thereıs
no path, itıs so steep that I have to use my hands
and the ground is covered in prickly plants. I have
demons flapping around me, tripping me, guiding my
hands to the thorniest places, driving stinging sweat
into my eyes. I can feel their black leathery wings
slapping my face, I can smell them, I can hear their
whispered taunts. I canıt go back - there is
nowhere to go back to - I can only go forward. At last
I get to the end of the climb. I canıt imagine
doing this for another day, and I go to bed telling
myself that I donıt have to. I know that in practical
terms this is true, but I also know that the land has
cast a spell on me, so really I have no choice but
to go on. The next day is different. I find the rhythm
of breath and heartbeat and feet.
The mountain is talking to me.
I can feel its gigantic pulse, hear its breathing. I
can feel the dragon that lives inside it - vast, visceral
and hot, powerfully, frighteningly alive. I realise
that the dragon has been speaking to me at night as
I lie awake in the moonlight. The surface of the mountain
is made of its shed scales, glinting and pewtery, streaked
with rust and fire. As I step on them they clatter and
clink like hot glass and the Dragon Mountain tells me
how to walk: ³Breathe. Take one step. Do this and reaching
my summit is inevitable.
I do as Iım told and once I've got the rhythm right
my inner world becomes only my breathing and
matching my steps to it. I love the simplicity of this
and the nothingness that exists outside of it -
I have no thoughts, only my body, and my body is climbing
a mountain, because it is breathing and
taking the next step, over and over again. I reach the
top, giggling and sobbing and staggering, my
fingers and toes tingling from lack of oxygen and cold
- thereıs deep snow at the summit that the combined
forces of sun and dragon havenıt melted by June. This
is another world.
Coming back down is as hard on knees and feet as going
up was on heart and lungs. By the time we get
to where we're staying for the night Iım more exhausted
than I've ever been before. The next day we
leave the mountain and walk down over long, gentle,
grassy slopes back to our campsite. I feel triumphant
and ecstatic at having done something so enormous, and
at having received such a profound gift.
Eyes have opened in my feet, my skin and my body so
that I sense the earth differently now.
it is time to come home to Scotland, I find that I've
fallen hopelessly in love with this land,
and leaving is incredibly painful. I know that these
mountains are now an indelible part of my heart,
lungs, feet, belly. Itıs not possible to erase them,
I will always be called back and have to return.
I am both scared and excited by something having this
power over me.
I get home I paint the dragon and the moon and the mountain.