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  • Writer's picturecherylmurfin

Day 1: Malngavie to Dryman

Updated: Mar 1, 2021

NOTE: This is a reboot. Due to poor internet connection as we walked the West Highland Way this month, I was unable to post our adventures daily. The next 20 posts will restart us at the beginning and move through a 10 day walk across the wild and bonnie Highlands, on to Glasgow, from there to a profound four days on the island of Iona and finally to the streets of Edinburgh.


Enthusiasm can carry you a long way, dropping you at the end of the road and making you forget the challenges you thought so terrible on the path.

Our walk started in high spirits as we moved through the first 12 miles of the 100 we will do. Our group has varying levels of experience with long-distance walking, although all have been training for this challenge. Still, rarely does one have time to walk 12 miles several times a week as we will do here. That is to say, the challenge is real and each of us has taken a risk, or many risks, to get here and attempt this beautiful, albeit tough, road. There will be very little asphalt on the path.

It helped today that there was so much color and newness to distract us from the first aches and pains. Stepping onto the path we found ourselves almost immediately in a lush forest, brimming with oak trees. The Way was lined on either side with dancing ferns, waving in the wind. I learned later that these are the "bracken," the invasive and unwelcome scrub that Scotland would very much like to scrub out. Dogs ran up and town the path, happily without leash and most without collar. Honestly, I don't think we met a sad or aggressive beast among them.

With six women it is unlikely that more than two will walk at the same gait. Today was about finding our own individual rhythms and seeing how they fit together in what is, essentially, a group walk.

We could not have asked for more perfect weather to start is off and by the time we set our eyes on Angel Cottage in the town of Dryman, we were all surprised how easily these miles went by. This little bed and breakfast is a find; comfortable beds and a breakfast that left us so stuffed we hardly had room for lunch.

We rose the next morning after a sleep sleep for some and wide-eyed 2 AM jet leg for others. Our mornings on the Way begin with gentle yoga, meditation, and "Morning Pages," the central exercise of The Artist's Way by Julie Cameron. If you are a writer in search of words, or someone who wants to write but feels inhibited by unknown blocks, The Artist's Way is a road you might want to take.

Our writing prompt for the walk from Milngavie to Dryman was the word SEE -- and all iterations thereof. See, look, seen, saw, watch . . .

Below are a few selections of our writing from the day:

See / Sharon Murfin

Seeds of Autumn

The seeds of autumn

Sharps, hairs, husks

Husks unfolded by four

Hard as coconuts

"There!" "Go!" "Git!"

Seeds carried away by lucky Jays

And forgotten to germinate in a dark stump

If you look for red,

its berries, inedible

Whistling for the birds and hips

Today if

I had to paint them

The color would be red

Mixed with purple and brown

Dangling, still waiting for takers

I was itching to try color with a brush and water

Thinking of Peggy

Here in her Scots-Irish Phoebe Noreen

A darling girl

Who painted every bright flower

She ever saw

And in front of my desk

A small sketch in pen with a wash

Of a bent safety pin

With a written note:

"Tom used this pin to fix his belt."

Livingness is what she had

In her hands

Seeing every bright thing

Who taught me

To admire and cry out


The red is impossible for me

To capture

I need her lifetime of make, make, make

And see, see, see

By Sharon Murfin, West Highland Way, 2019


Five Women Five Wings

Leaf wings

Hers are a buttery brown, two perfect drying ferns curling at the tips and fading into tan along the bottom frond.

And hers, hers are fire-engine red, a fall leaf, possibly a member of the eucalyptus family, if only by shape and not by smell.

Hers are vibrant thistle, purple brushes that paint the air around her in a holy arc and cause her sing her joy out loud.

Hers flutter brilliant, Highlands green, ivy-shaped and tiny but strong enough to lift her up this hill.

Then hers, oh hers! They are life-givers, hers. Oak leaf-shaped and protecting an acorn heart; nourishing, powerful, radiant, raising her from the dark forest.

And mine? They are feathers, laid flat across my back, un-beating, decorations really, but lifting me up enough to walk behind and watch her and her and her and her and her fly.

Cheryl Murfin, West Highland Way, 2019



It was the sycamore who started it

throwing off her leaves

like a locker room teammate

tired but buoyant after a win

ready for the showers

The ash tree was more risqué

her leaves swirling down in a tango

enticing me, a Gypsy Rose Lee

unhindered, sultry

But the oaks buttoned up their leaves as I passed

Not embarrassed, just formal,

Composed, nothing to prove

Certainly in no hurry on my account

But one stout old oak seemed jolly

reaching a limb down to pat me on the head

"Now, now Dearheart, you'll be gone afore nigh."

by Cynthia Henon, West Highland Way, 2019


Yellow pods / Sharon Murfin

On Seeing

Each is its own world now withering in the heat of the room, the rowan leaf, the thistle, the frond of heather. Only the sturdy oak leaf holds its shape still whole and grey green on the table. But the tuft of wool that Cynthia found me on the barbed wire, an echo of the joyful bleating lambs, is still whole, its own springy self. The rest crumbled into dust in my pocket.

Nothing is partial. Everything speaks of the whole. All these plucked twisted bits add up to the

evening light on the fiery orange fields, glowing against the dark green hills.

Mary Murfin-Bayley, West Highland Way, 2019



I've been a collector of stones and pine cones. A gatherer of moss. I've picked berries and cherries and apples. I've pulled the leaves off rosemary sprigs, thyme, and basil

But the inclination to gather has left me. I aim to be one with the many things; A part of the landscape.

I feel the pain of the squished slug on the trail. I curry the hairy caterpillar along so she won't meet the same fate. I try not to worry the mouse or the wren, and study the Masters to learn the language of the sheep.

I wonder can this practice bring me to a deeper peace? An acceptance? A true and untained gratitude?

Will it help me to see?

by Cynthia Henon, West Highland Way, 2019



who knew

there were

so many shades of green

(deepest emerald, miltary faitique moss,

grassy-but-not-golf-course, mossy

bluish-purpley-royal, froggish . . .)?

and that

if I stopped frequently

and looked deeply enough

I would see them all

as a warm quilt around me

and feel them

within myself

causing my heart

to explode

Cheryl Murfin, West Highland Way, 2019


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Oct 31, 2019

Exquisite! Thank you for taking me along on your journey. Such beautiful words and images.

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