A note from the mountains

‘The mountains suit you’ Angus messaged today. And so they do. I came here to read and write and whilst I have managed some of that, all my best thinking happens on my feet – and I can’t seem to stay off them.

The natural world in this part of Switzerland is basline stunning anyway, but I find it absolutely bewitching at this time of year. Trampling along the almost deserted alps with my dog in tow, I thought about how younger me – under the well-meaning stares of watchful relatives – was only allowed to go alone as far as the corner shop during visits to my parents’ respective ancestral homes.

Cue a strong tendency towards ‘I want to be where the no people are’ as an inevitable lifelong trait. Counterintuitive given my visible extroversion, but without an occasional hard reset, my batteries don’t charge well.

Yesterday, I walked Lucy along a scenic 5km route to a hole in the wall for some local fare for dinner. A couple of awkward encounters reminded me that there are regional differences in Swiss German. I have made a mental note to check if the new words I learnt on this trip are high German or dialect. The struggle continues but it actually is a really fascinating aspect of the culture here. I returned to my charming airbnb and settled down to read – fittingly a book that involves taking a dog on an adventure.

Perhaps that is what possessed me to take Lucy on a 15.5km meander around Klosters today. She would feel utterly betrayed if she only knew how many times I opted for the longer route – but today it was in the air and brought on by the sun after a recent bout of bad weather and much to the dismay of my ageing pup, resist I could not.

Klosters were a treat – gorgeous even in the handover from summer to autumn. There was a sprinkling of snow on the highest peaks already, the pines in proximity to the landquart river gave the tiniest whiff of that year-end feeling, but the larch trees were still verdant – not yet that magical mustard colour, and a reminder there is still quite some time to go.

The mountains settle me. The walking tires me in a good way. I sleep better, eat one big meal a day and snack on local cheeses. For something warm, I sip a steaming mug of peppermint tea. I compartmentalise work. I was able to reflect fondly and with gratitude for my beloved mother in law whom we lost two years ago this week. I detoxified my thoughts – spending time with a dog massively helps with this – and even spoke German without thinking. I chose the tinkling of cowbells over the many audiobooks and podcasts I have lined up, and for the first time in a long time I was fully present with myself.

This short trip has been a powerful reminder to keep paying myself back with time. We are all deserving of being the recipient of our most valuable asset. A lot of energy is spent creating value for other people – whether in a personal life or work context that it is easy to equate this usefulness with self-worth which in turn is a oneway ticket to burnout. I am fortunate to be able to escape the grind, not just by maintaining hobbies but building habits out of them. Life ebbs and flows but the consistency over the long run – the things that return you to yourself are the things worth investing time and energy in. I write this as water trickles from the trough outside, cowbells tinkle and the occasional wind chime joins the fray. Dusk is settling and the dog has passed out. I am looking forward to finding out what happens next to her counterpart in my book…

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