Robert MacFarlane “The Wild Places” (Penguin 2008 )

To be in the basin, even briefly, is to be reminded of the narrow limits of human perception, of the provisionality of your assumptions about the world. In such a place, your conventional units of chronology (the century, the life-span, the decade, the year, the day, the heartbeat) become all but imperceptible, and your individual gestures and impulses (the lift of a hand, the swimming stroke taken within water, the flash of anger, a turn of speech or thought) acquired an eerie quickness. The larger impulses of the human world–its wars, civilisations, eras, seem remote. Time in the Basin moves both too fast and too slowly for you to comprehend, and it has no interest in conforming to any human schedules. The Basin keeps wild time.

In a valley of such age, you feel compelled to relinquish your habitual methods of timekeeping, to abandon the grudging measures and audits that enable normal life. Time finds its forms minerally and aerially, rather than on the clock-face or in the diary. Such human devices come to seem brittle and inconsequential. You want quietly to yield them up–to surrender your diary at the sanctuary’s gateway, to turn your watch so that it faces inwards. There will be opportunity afterwards to recover these methods, you think. (61)


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