At the end of 2016, the common wisdom was that it was a terrible year. I’ve given it a month to settle, and I haven’t seen too many people retract that judgement.
As far as I can tell, 2016 was condemned for two reasons:
- Certain celebrities died.
- Unpopular political changes were made.
In this post I’d like to reflect on what it means to have a child-like faith, and what we as dignified, grown-up, rational adults can learn from it.
In my last post, I talked of things that I had seen hiking, and of the confidence shown by children who had written letters to Winnie-the-Pooh or to the fairies. This post is a little more serious, since I’ve been sidetracked onto an important theme: the importance and power of fiction in real life. With the power of the Internet and social media there are fan clubs everywhere, and sometimes it is hard to draw the boundary between the fictional groups and “real life”. I’ve stuck to a couple of examples following the “letters” theme and a personal example, but it’s really just scratching the surface.
When I have been on walks with small children, I have often felt that they are seeing things that I don’t see. Sometimes it’s the little details that I’ve seen thousands of times but never really observed. Other times, it’s the things I don’t see because they’re not there. But the child has a confidence that goes beyond “I’d like to imagine I’m seeing something”. It appears to me they are actually seeing and responding to whatever it is. No matter whether it is there or not.
Here are a few examples I’ve seen while out hiking.
I listen to a lot of audiobooks. Sometimes people ask me “Have you read this book?”, and my overly literal mind wants to reply “No, but I’ve listened to it.”
For many years I have relied on electronic maps to help me understand the world, to discover new places to visit, and to find my way around. One stereotype of today’s generation is that we just use a satnav to get from A to B and accept whatever it gives us without really understanding where we are going. But that is not my experience.
Well, it’s come to that point again: the arbitrary point at which we say an old year has finished, and a new year has begun. It’s neither the start of summer in the southern hemisphere, nor the beginning of winter in the northern hemisphere. But it does get me a public holiday tomorrow as part of a full week break from work, so I guess I’m not complaining.
Every year is a new adventure and a step into the unknown. For me, though, 2016 was less of a step and more of a leap into a completely different world. So here are some thoughts on what the year meant to me.
In my last post, I limited myself to peaks I had scaled that were the highest in their country. This time, I’d like to look at a few more peaks that I conquered this year: some still tall, others slightly less so.
It includes a walk in Switzerland that was probably my favourite walk for the year (though it has some stiff competition). And a walk that was so local that it literally started and ended at my house.
This year, I climbed to the highest point of five different nations for the first time: Australia, England, Wales, Scotland, and the Isle of Man. I also climbed the highest point of my home state of Victoria for a second time.
Climbing the tallest mountain in my home country has been on my list for years, so I made sure I did it before exhausting my leave going to the UK. Doing the UK Three Peaks was a key part of my planning for exploring the UK. I was already planning on spending a lot of time in England, but this gave me a goal to target: I wanted to make sure that I spent at least a week in Wales and Scotland, rather than just dashing in, climbing a peak, and dashing out again. The Isle of Man felt too small to spend more than a few days on it, though I found I could have easily spent longer (it doesn’t seem as well known as it should be).
One of the things my list shows is the importance of choosing your countries carefully. The highest point I reached during the year was in Switzerland, at least a kilometre higher than I got in Australia. And yet it still wasn’t enough: to reach the highest mountain in Switzerland I would have had to go another kilometre up and used specialised equipment. I only spent about six hours in France, and still ended up climbing higher than England and Wales. I seriously considered visiting the Netherlands and trying to reach its highest point (a mere 322.7m high), but decided (wisely) that I’d prefer to spend my time exploring the Swiss Alps.