Places where you can hear your breath

Pilgrimage to Bidarray, Vallee du Baztan and up to Col d’Ezpalza, one of my favourite places on the planet… It turns out my guardian tree – an ample chestnut with bowed mossing arms and broad green leaves – was entirely ravished by the 4th July rains. In its place, a gigantic gouge in the mountainside, an open casket of raw red earth. And I thought my ashes would go to its feet! Turns out I lived longer. Reactive and vigorous climb through the heat, shelter from the sun beneath out-crops of slate rock like a land toad, wet your hat in a trickle of moisture -say the armpit of the land, then, climb some more. Reaching ridge-lines, breathe with the vultures, feel their 2m+ wingspan brushing the space above your lonely head in broad strokes of pure glide. A place where you can hear your breath.