I went for a walk in the Catalan countryside last week.
I saw cherries that were young but already sweet. I tasted them and felt happy.
I went for a walk in the Catalan countryside last week.
There was plenty of air to think, secret houses to find and a fresh breeze in the valley. There were Chinese dragon sculptures in the front yards, sand-coloured dogs licking my shins and strangers opening their homes. There was peace in the salad bowl, and an itinerary chosen for the rest of the 2017.
I went for a walk in the Catalan countryside last week. And I felt happy.
I spent the three very last days of April in North Yorkshire, in the land of wild garlic, frolicking ewes and magnificently shaped rocks.
Little brooks, arched bridges, slate roofs, trees that are still barely accepting the arrival of spring, private fancy bidges and light hearts – these are the keywords from one of the best weekends of the year. So far.
My heart feels light in Yorkshire. Not because you can go trekking with llamas there and imagine yourself to be standing high on the Andes platoo. Not because it offers you the best little pies in the country, and shop keepers who literally say “Welcome to Yorkshire” in your face. 🙂 It’s actually not all romance and glory. On our circular walk from Pateley Bridge (via Brimham Rocks) we also saw large flags with the word “Brexit” written all over them. Fair enough, the flags were also half-burnt but… Even that could not take the lightness away. I do not know how to be a political person, really. And probably never will.
North Yorkshire’s lightness seems to come from the wide open spaces, from the tiny brooks leading you to bigger rivers and bigger bridges. Yet, there’s no unnecessary quaintness (like sometimes in the Lake District, for me, sorry!). Spring always arrives much later in here. In fact, it’s almost like you get two springs in one year, just by travelling between Yorkshire and London.
The source of the lightness seems to be a mix of natural beauty (the land is never too flat), a certain sense of time (nothing is too compressed or too eternal or long) and from forgetting to complain. Completely. (A habit I picked up during last 6 months and am now dancing a slow departure walz with.)(Can’t wait for the music to end!)
And then there’s a sense of magic. Somehow, behind every corner, there’s a surprising view you just did not think or imagine to meet you. Everything is clean. So clean that is has an immediate effect on your mind. Something would almost suggest the presence of a monastery, of sorts, but all you can see are country lanes and daffodils. Maybe this it, though? Might as well be. The real reason why the heart becomes so light in here? Parts of North Yorkshire feel like a vast, outdoors monastery where walking is proof of your silent yet lively dedication. To life.
And it sure helps to hear the cry of a close-by yet unseen peacock just when you are crouching down to pick some of that long-awaited-for wild garlic. In your undefined and unnamed temple gardens.
The second walk from our series was framed by field edges. (This is not even a pun. Framed by edges… Ah, never mind.) When our first walk was formed by bench and forking path descriptions, then this one was definitely all about following the fields. Which is not bad, you know. I can definitely think of a worst thing than walking next to a field on a cool yet sunny day!
Section 17 took a bit of time, although it was not very long and did not feel very long either. Once again, we chose the sunniest day of the week and hit the road. Arriving at Cockfosters was strange. Strange in a way reaching a final destination on yet another tube line is. It did not take long for the car parks to end and greener parks to start. Also, it still had not rained in London by that time. It was getting close to 5 weeks.
There was a lot of green happening that day. A lot. Spring is getting properly ready to turn into summer soon. With the blue skies in the background, it was a lot like walking around in alternative versions to Windows’ desktop wallpapers. K. also knows that you can use a word meaning “greener than green” in Turkish in occasions just like this.
It was a walking day which did not enwrap me (or possibly us three?) in anything impossibly magical, but gave us many small surprises that were sweet in their own everyday way:
little fresh oak leaves
ivy-smothered forest signs in Enfield
cherry blossoms on the grass (up to this point I had only seen them on pavement)
the Railway Inn of Enfield that plays opera and smells of old cigarettes
two women nailing “Missing: Rooney” posters on trees (Rooney was a parakeet, there was also a photo)
the sweetest sign post, saying “New river. (Old course.)”
This one got me thinking. Life, literature and philosophy are brimming with the idea of the opposite: old river, new course. You know, the idea that you can always turn a new page however tired or alienated you have become. There’s also the idea of the opposite of this opposite – old course, new river – meaning that some things get discovered over and over again throughout our lives, in different situations. But new river, old course, exactly in this order, contains something devastatingly romantic, if not even unforgiving. It seems to either hint (in the unforgiving version) that life has certain patterns or ways of influencing us which no one can escape, no matter which century we’re living in – or – that were there has once been life, there will be life again (the romantic version). What I don’t like about this sign, however, is how it seems to rob the one who is living (the new river) from any other options. In a way, it almost makes it not trust itself, without even giving it an option.
And this is also the reason why I finally need to take a month off work for the first time in my life. Because I am so tired that I get offended by forest signs.
London Loop is a 240-km signed walking route that is created for the incurably curious. In other words, it makes it very easy to walk around London.
I believe in the magic of streets, paths and roads. A city always feels like home when you know you have many streets to choose from and many ways to get to a location. The trouble finds you when you start running out of streets. I was thinking about this exact thing when looking down from the parapet in Malta’s Mdina: with a tiny squint in your eye, you could almost imagine a slice of Istanbul petting the soft edges of your horizon. But what makes Istanbul Istanbul is the feeling and the knowledge of the Possible. The same pleasant tingling you get before job interviews, exams and first dates. And Malta lacked that feeling. The streets were counted.
K. and I got the idea to walk the London Loop by an accident. I know that in my case, it is a path of solace (among other things) and a path that I slowly start building into my Denali preparations. It keeps me sane when away from the mountains and hanging low in mood. And gives me time to spend with my friends.
The other meaning of the loop
On our first walk already managed to direct us through a tiny trickster point as well. There was a parting of roads and benches whence we choose our itinerary only to end up at the very beginning of the original path at least a kilometer away. I guess this is just one of the meanings for the loop. When retracing our steps we were greeted by an elderly couple at that same trickster point who had also been mislaid from their path (yet coming from the opposite direction).
If I was free to roam forever (and immortal), I’d start mapping all the trickster points in this world. Hopefully, such cartographers are already out there, poking at the crossroads of possibilities.
The older I get, the more I like spring. With every year. It was the only season I never noticed in my 20s. In my 30s, springs come with a sense of relief.
On Sunday, 9th of April, me and my lover set our course to Epping Forest (of the Chingford area). We had been there once before and we both remembered it for its luscious magical properties. READ: tense green foliage with foxes jumping onto forest glades and butterflies circling the air. The last and only time we visited this area, we walked out of it mesmerised and refreshed.
For the record, I don’t know Epping Forest very well. So far, I’ve been to:
Epping Forest in Chingford
Epping Forest in Epping
Epping Forest near Whipps Cross
Epping Forest in Aldersbrook (across the Wanstead Flats in E7)
Of these forest areas, the Chingford one was the fairy tale one, the Epping one the muddy one, the Whipps Cross one the wormhole one (you can end up where you started while thinking you have just reached the other shore of the lake) and the Aldersbrook one the cultural looking one.
Choking on expectations
But this time, Epping Forest was different. That’s because the spring is uncommon. How? It has not rained for weeks. For WEEKS. In England. In Spring. In London. On top of that, on that particular Sunday, I was not walking with my mind really at peace, so my steps were not always in the present but also falling into past memories and expectations of the forest. I think it was the only time I have expected the forest to be something. To show me something. To give me something. (How funny and stupid is that?)
But forests teach you good lessons. When you go looking for foliage magic, you will end up inside the landscape of Arizona. When you go looking for foxes, you’ll barely spot a squirrel. When you want to find moist moss, you end up staring at cracks in the dead bark. What is this, spring of death?!
The great fox god of dryness.
It is quite safe to say that is really has not rained in a while.
Relaxing into it
There was nothing left to do than to give into the half-lifeless state of it. And just like any good story or a well-built moral structure would suggest – as soon as we accepted the New Arizona, bits of life started revealing itself to us. We even found grass to sit on.
There is no moral to this sotry. Apart from not to expect things, from people or from nature.
I have considered my heart to be the copy of the world. Yes, I’m a romantic, and yes, I also actually hear how that sounds. Still. This means that every new place I visit carves its shape onto it.
Fine, my soul and mind are probably sold to the mountains, but my heart also rejoices in the sounds of the Gujarati streets, in the dust and colours of Marrakesh, or in trying to hold steady on a surfboard on the tiniest of ocean waves. I go for the scorching sun of the Delphi mountains and the alpine peaks of Madeira as much as I go for the winds of the Scottish Highlands. The damp streets of Venice in November make me want to get lost in them as much as the backstreets of Beyoğlu do in May.
All this means that nothing prepared me for Malta. I guess I did have expectations of sort. I came for the sun, to see layers of history (especially of the Arab and Spanish times), the streets with labyrinthine structures.
I was totally ready to embrace the exotic and the new. The everything.
There are two versions of Malta. Neither of them is more alternative than the other, neither of them more or less true, or more or less shaded by the wants of the imagination.
My Malta was a Necropolis. It was a place where everything worth seeing came from the past (either from decades or from millennia ago). It is grand to have a choice of UNESCO World Heritage Sites on such a small territory. It is eerie when there is nothing else.
My Malta was a Kingdom of Silence. It is an island without a seagull sound. And island without the murmur of people. Even when visiting the Citadel on the island of Gozo, some builders came up to us, apologising “We are going to make some sound now”. Not to mention that the old capital is actually called the Silent City. Funnily enough, the loudest sound we heard was just outside of Mdina. There was a dog howling in a way some ships howl when they have already been taken over by ghosts.
My Malta was Un-living. Everything in here was old, empty or a car repairs shop. It was a place where most little businesses were closed, with the exception of the little run-down lottery houses that were open on every street. These gave the place an air of blind hope and desperation.
The locals told us how the other locals are against change. How they love the baroque. The old. The bygone.
In here, one needs to take a bus (to leave the capital) to find a food shop, any food shop, that is open.
My Malta was a Caravan Chalet. Once, we passed a row of caravans huddled together under a long tin roof. We took this scene to be a retirement home for beach huts only used out of mercy for their bygone glory. However, browsing through AirBnB revealed that those huts are actually rented out to guests, still. In here, the past is alive by accident but does not always feel like a natural part of the present.
My Malta was a Slap in the Face. We ran between ferry terminals in heavy rain with me praying for my headache to cough up its final remnants. We were told that “For a woman, a stroke is a very embarrassing thing” without an addition “That was a horrible and a chauvinist thing to say”. We were played birthday music in a restaurant without having asked for it.
My Malta was an island of nothingness where my imagination stumbled into a crevasse without a rope.
My Malta was an island dotted with small green lizards and Barbary figs. In here, lemons and limes grow on trees, and when you rub them against your hand, they actually smell of what they are supposed to smell. (Citrus fruit on trees – every northerner’s Romantic Vision Number One!)
In Malta, there is a quiet quirkiness to everything. In buses, people lean against fire hydrants, making them activate a sudden stream of compressed nitrogen all across the bus. There are roosters having proper show-offs for the hens and rock formations shaped like turtles huddled hiding in the quiet Mediterranean spring.
In here, even if you can’t buy stamps with a card, strangers will use their cash to buy them for you. In Malta, if you squint your eyes just for a second, you can see scenes from Game of Thrones coming to life in front of your eyes. Sometimes, modern times and the bygone do touch hands. And even if you can’t swim yet, you can look through the water until your eyes meet the sea bed.
Life is silent in here. And no one longs for the additional layer of modernity.
Yes, this is related to walking and mountaineering. Today is the first day I can paint my big toe nail again after I lost the original one due to a steep bit and lack of skills when descending from the Kazbek summit in last August. I’m a lady again!
I travelled back to Scotland in the middle of March. The aim was to gather more technical winter mountaineering skills with the help of Rob Johnson Expedition Guide. Luckily, when I contacted him near the end of 2016, the group had just one space left. I was set to go!
What I absolutely had not planned on, was developing either a monster migraine or an uncanny sinus infection a couple of weeks before the start of the winter skills & mountaineering course. In my case, getting the train up to Fort William from London could have easily been taken for a road trip to Damascus, only with a difference that instead of a ruggedly holy calling I was starting to have doubts whether I could climb at all.
About that pain
There will be no cliffhanger in the middle of this story. Sorry! 🙂 All went well, albeit laboriously. The prescription drugs I was taking at the time lowered my walking heartbeat to 50 bpm. Even a single set of stairs became an accomplishment of sorts, not to mention a mountain. True story! The ascent of Stob Ban ended up the hardest walking experience of my life. I actually had to rest my head on my axe after every ten meters.
But when there’s a will (and the love for the mountains, and a truly patient mountain guide and one other patient climber), there’s always a way. I did end up:
climbing/scrambling the quartzite North Buttress of Stob Ban in the Grey Corries (a borderline route between grade II and III, if my memory is not jig dancing);
Scrambling with Rachel. (Photo by Rob.)
The route up on Stob Ban.
Scrambling with Rachel. (Photo by Rob.)
climbing my first Grade I winter gully in the Cairngorms (Jacob’s Ladder). A very gracious gully for learning, I have to say.
I also spent one of my climbing days in bed with vertigo, holding on to my mattress and ignoring the fiercely orange flashes the smoke alarm in my room was producing. I mean, you go out with many things, but you don’t go climbing with a vertigo.
So, this time it was a a slightly mixed bunch of feelings. And definitely the only time in my life I have felt less than flawlessly happy in the mountains. But still, I aaaaalmost got there, of course.
This year, man!
The beginning of 2017 has not been particularly lucky. Having been almost professionally lucky (and healthy) so far, it has been tremendously hard for me to accept the physical daily pain. I’m definitely better equipped to deal with years of high level mental strain (positive and the other shade) than even a week of physical discomfort. Not kidding.
When I can’t move, all my versions of the future lose their grounding and their zest. It’s as if someone has changed my light switch for a capriciously functioning dimmer. There are bursts of normality, but mostly I inhabit a space filled with thick, gooey air. In here, I need to refocus my eyes and my itinerary with every step I take.
I have no idea how people with chronical pain deal with it. Where do you find your projections of peace? Can everything be trainable?
Why you don’t always need the sun to be happy?
So, where on Earth is the only place to find peace when you are officially burnt out, over worked, over stressed and physically crumbling? In the Scottish Highlands, of course.
A bit of belaying.
The Grey Corries.
On top of Jacob’s Ladder.
Remnants of winter on Stob Ban. (Photo by Rob.)
The Grey Corries. West Highlands of Scotland, March 2017.
In here, you do not need the sun to be happy:
The light and warmth often hide some of the smells eminating from the soil. Although warmth gives free reign to blossoms and such, it also takes the soil away from underneath your feet. You kind of stop noticing it. But sometimes you need to feel the ground the most.
The sun is always about the present. The murky weather fixes your thoughts on possibilities instead.
The grey weather gives you time to think. The sun is an action call. (In other words, the wolf-coloured weather makes for a great travel planner.)
You notice more shades in colours in the hands of a dubious climate.
As long as a snowstorm or a gale is not visiting the same place as you, you can still go forwards with your most loved activities.
The dramatic (and the grand) scenes mostly welcome the traveller in the non-sunny landscapes.
The murkiness makes you feel as being part of a story. You feel yourself and your itinerary in a specifically intense manner when hitting the road in proper dreary weather.
The sunlessness makes you notice more allurement around you. It does.
A tough weather brings strangers together.
The gloom makes you move. The sun habitually traps you into the moment. (By no means a wicked trap, though!)
The overcast weather works wonders for the imagination.
A weather with an epic temper makes you feel like being on a journey the legends are made of.
And what else forms the core of a human heart than all of the above?!
So. I visited Norfolk for the first time this February. Norfolk has a skull-shaped coastline but I did not discover it all on my feet. We wandered around Hunstanton and the Holme Sande Dunes instead. And the biggest thing that happened to me in February is straightly related to that visit.
Holme Dunes National Nature Reserve, Norfolk.
When the tide is out in Norfolk.
Into the great beige open.
Namely, I came up with a new theory about human nature which answers the most spike-y and acute questions I’ve had about what makes us all so different. (Well, technically, what makes us all the same, but using different means to reach that sameness.)(Uhuh.)
Imagine you get an unplanned job project that suddenly leaves you with you a nice amount of extra money. What’s your first reaction?
I, being a slow thinker, spent the most of 2015 and 2016 pondering over the following question: is it possible that not all of us feel the same thing in that situation?
Hunstanton Cliffs. February 2017.
The same cliffs, indeed. February 2017.
The answer: it is not only possible, but it also is the actual case. The actual life. With a perfect shock I discovered that not everyone is thinking about new routes, roads, mountains and destinations all the time. And that explains it. The difference of us all.
Yes, I have a job that’s my love and my hobby, and which I would also do it for free (for any clients reading this, only kidding). Yes, I’m reaching an end of a long academic road this year which just might leave me with a PhD degree. And yes, there is life, and a house renovation that is nearing its finish this year as well. But surely, SURELY, all one really thinks about is what unknown roads there are, just hours from their doorstep?!
Towards Hunstanton Cliffs. Norfolk, England, February 2017.
Definitely quite bleak.
Did not get bleakless.
New theory for human nature
Based on long hours of interviewing my friends, and on accounts heard from others, I am now convinced that humans fall into two large (and obviously not always straightforward) categories:
– people who get properly grounded, energised and refocused by visiting places they know well or where they have been before (visiting the same fells feels like visiting an old friend, a friend once said);
– people who get their soul back and reach their metaphorical home by going to places that are completely new.
In Norfolk, you shall find fossils, they said.
How the theory really explains it all?
Here’s why and where it can be applied. It shreds light on:
why some people are not upset when an idea of a trip gets forgotten because no one really takes the lead in organising it;
why people have savings accounts that are actually savings accounts, and not cover-names for Travel Accounts;
why some people follow maps in new cities and others could not think of anything worse;
how certain work and living choices get made;
why it is not the most shared dream of all people throughout all times –> to sit around a map or a globe, dreaming of places you can’t yet pronounce;
why some of us have a need to return to certain places that give us back the sense of self (a ritual of sorts, technically);
why some people always choose the new dish from the menu or never cook the same dish twice, and why some do.
Entering the rounded rock area.
Hunstanton Cliffs and Rainer.
Icelandic moon landscape of Norfolk.
Looks like a troll cemetery.
A ritual for relocating the self
Usually, humans need rituals to create a new space either physically or mentally. This is why we choose the same roads to walk on when feeling on the edge, and why we re-read the same books or visit theat same holiday spot. This is partially why meditation works, and why regular workouts keep us sane (apart from the funky hormones, of course). It is curiosity that’s been given a form. But there’s another way to handle curiosity.
Gaining security and strength from the new
The other way is the following: you are one of those people who feel most secure and yourself-like in places where you have never been. This makes a rucksack full of sense. In a new place, your idea of the self has no familiar triggers to bring on the feel of a certain image, so you can feel borderless and – in the lack of a better description – the most authentic version of yourself.
You probably belong to this category, if:
you’re willing to sit on a bus for 7 hours just to see a new place for one evening;
you feel like sleeping in the palm of your favourite god when sleeping in a new place (a bunkbed, an airport, a hotel, someone’s sofa, etc.);
you prefer hiking new trails to returning to a set of sweetly favourite ones:
your mind rests like crazy when having boarded a local bus or a train in a country you have never been in;
the unfamiliar makes you love and respect life and strangers more;
an amount of fear in the day renders the peace of your evening more serene;
it’s bliss to sit on trains for 12 hours withour internet or books;
you need the knowledge that you’ll never run out of streets to walk on. You need it for your daily sanity;
horizonless cities make you feel home;
mountaineous terrains make you feel home (ok, now I’m just talking about me, but mountains are some of the last areas of true wilderness left);
not having your things around you makes you feel creative again.
I shall now continue with listing all possible ways for gaining unstructured experiences of old and new spaces.
Wanstead Flats in its natural autumn state. Autumn 2016.
Wanstead Flats in its natural autumn state. Autumn 2016.
The following two ways are slightly inspired by dreams, and include a bit of luck. They are both, however, feasible ways for going on microadventures that have the ability to give you a completely new experience of a space you already know.
1. Wait for the fog
Lesson learned from the fogs that took hold of East London’s Wanstead Flats in October and December 2016.
A proper fog can change your surroundings within 3 minutes. (Yes, there is a post on London fogalready but it deals with different nuances.) Apart from being the most existential of all natural phenomena, the fog can also make things look crazily similar to something from one’s childhood. And this skill is a mystery to me. Surely, my childhood was not spent in some never-talked-about Soviet fog. #alternativefacts
Wanstead Flats. London, October 2016.
Wanstead Flats. London, December 2016.
Wanstead Flats. London, December 2016..
Also Wanstead Flats. London, October 2016.
Wanstead Flats. London, December 2016.
Wanstead Flats. London, December 2016.
Fair point, though. In my case, the childhood reference is definitely linked to “Hedgehog in the Fog”. It is a legendary cartoonby Yuriy Norshteyn (1975) that gets deeper with every time you watch it. Give it a try. But not when already feeling existential.
When wandering around in the fog, creatures from the cartoon can actually come to life. True story! (Yes, fine, someone placed a hedgehog doll there just for me. Yes, fine, someone who waited for the fog to arrive for a year. <3) But even if you won’t deliberately go after exorcising cartoon characters to life, the fog will introduce another world into your own.
Fog. Captured. December 2016.
Hedgehog in the fog. December 2016.
Hedgehog in the fog. December 2016.
Even if you think it strange to head out (well, you can’t really see much), then even just a short walk can quite accidentally lead you to a moment or into a scene where other type of powers seem to govern the place. And that is actually pretty amazing. And valuable.
London fog. October 2016.
London other-worlds. October 2016.
The other-world of 2016.
2. Visit the wildest place of your childhood
Lesson learned from visiting the Pääsküla bog of Tallinn in December 2016.
If you happened to grow up in a bog or next to a forest, this will be easy. But if you had a place where your parents took you twice a year but which stands out the most from your early years, it is also worth the effort to visit that.
Preferrably, choose a place you have not visited for 5, 10, or 15 years. Go when you have time. Go alone.
December. Forest bound. Tallinn 2016.
December. Forest bound. Tallinn 2016.
Notice how the reality and the memory start mixing. There’s also a high chance that you have dreamt about that place so much throughout your grown-up life. At least this is what I felt when I visited my childhood kingdom – the Pääsküla bog (located in the wetlands nature reserve in the capital of Estonia). (And no, there was no nature reserve there when I was growing up.)
The border of it all. Tallinn 2016.
Stepping in. Pääsküla bog. Tallinn 2016.
Walking on the streets felt like crossing the border into a dream. But entering a forest from a path which I had not used for 15 (!) years turned the entire space into a living dream. I found an apple tree that I had forgotten. It was still holding on to its winter apples, transforming them all into natural Christmas decorations.
Walking further, I noticed more paths I had not used for more than a decade. But I left them alone for now. It feels magical just to know that they are there, waiting for a visit in the future.
Frost on the wetlands. Tallinn 2016.
No more paths. Tallinn 2016.
Paths. Pääsküla bog. Tallinn 2016.
Apparently, that forest is more deeply engrained into my mind than I ever knew. While walking (well, making my way through) thin larches and winter bushes, I suddenly stopped dead by feeling an presence of emptiness. “There used to be a tree here”, said the quick thought entering my head. Soon, I was already scooping half-frozen leaves off the ground to test my sanity. I passed the test. The tree stump was indeed there. Who knew that forests engrained their spatial maps so softly into our memories.
But there was also a moment of disbelief. What surprised me was the visible lack of new paths and the shrunken number of the existing ones. Also, it was a sunny weekend day and barely a child could be seen. I had not ventured far at all, so maybe the children were hidden deeper in the forest. But they weren’t also around houses. Everything was empty. All these areas used to be THE place of life and adventure for 20 years of my life. A place of sickeningly high tree houses, bog rafts, map drawing, bridge counting, island living and for all types of hunting and orienteering games. But now? (Ok, I sound old, right?)
Walking on the borders of semi-realities always assures me of one thing: every type of travel is possible. You see tree roots that have found their way out of the ground more briskly, yet they are the same ones you used to play under when far away from your current height. Some of the paths feel almost too strange, some you recognise but are bitter-sweetly intimidated of. Your forest has become a stranger. Not an inhospitable one, but a stranger nonetheless. And yet. And yet, and yet. You feel like it would welcome you back.
And then you notice something else, and all the worlds become alive within each other. The sharp creek banks remind you of the careful measuring it took to jump over them, of the frog spawning locations you kept secret from the others, of the greyish Elven thickets you found your way through, of the creek suddenly becoming a sandy-bedded one, and of the sedge tufts that you used for stepping stones when getting to the other side of the bog. Estonians are actually so fond of their sedge tufts that there’s even a famous children’s book dedicated to them. A children’s book and a theme park.
This is the thing with revisiting your childhood kingdoms. It opens up a way to change your understanding of time. Everything feels intensily possible. Once again. Although, even these words do the experience no justice.