Sunday, May 21, 2023

Loch Coruisk Proxy Walk for Juliet

This post, by Rob Bushby, is the first time someone has adopted the proxy walk form without my invitation. Rob has been connecting proxy walks and nature-based youth awards in his work with Friends of the Award.

Juliet Robertson is an education consultant who specialises in outdoor learning and play. An award-winning author, influential contributor to Outdoor Learning & Play policy, and the driving force behind Creative STAR Learningwebsite & blog, Juliet was diagnosed with having Acute Myeloid Leukaemia in December 2020. She features in two day of access events, May 2023, which I will post soon.

A 'proxy walk' around Loch Coruisk, for Juliet, poetic recollections for a Creative Star

A recent gift from Juliet of a handmade sit-mat – accompanied by a poem, ‘Clouds’ – prompted the idea of making a Proxy Walk for her. 


Coruisk Hut, in the heart of the Skye Cuillin, was the setting for of a 5-day residency in 2003. It was a time of immersion, with no watches or phones; of simple experiences of nature, weather, place; of sharing. A renga – linked haiku – gave the group the basis for daily review (see below).


These ingredients – with a dash of playful, creative learning – capture some of the flavour of Juliet’s influence on the world of outdoor learning


A May 2023 return to Skye, and to Coruisk, seemed to pull together threads in a timely way. And a sit-mat is handy on the rough gabbro ‘moon rock’. So, the mat and Juliet accompanied a walk around the loch, along with some poetic reflections 20 years on. 


“Thank you! Loch Coruisk is a beautiful place - never been but looked down upon it from both Bla Bheinn and Sgurr Alasdair in years gone by.” (Juliet)


Serendipity. Another idea coined by Alec Finlay – besides Proxy Walks – is of a hut of healing, “like a Maggie’s Centre on a mountain, for the ill and dying to be in wilderness”. Alec is collecting and creating descriptions of such a hut “for anyone who can't get back into the hills”. Juliet’s hut, recently articulated, is shared below, with her permission.

Rob Bushby, Friday 5th May 2023

Juliet’s hut of healing


Let the hut by warm, sheltered,

   with dappled light

   and mirrors to hold the views

   at different angles.


Let the hut be simple,

   with views of nature,

   containing nothing that beeps

   (hospitals are full of beeps).


Let the hut have no grey walls

   unless of natural stone –

   no grey anywhere

   (hospitals specialise in greyness).

Coruisk Hut, photo by Luke Allan

Let there be plants around the place

   mints for tea, flowers to pick, plants for scent,

   (nothing smells in a hospital, other than vomit,

   urine and gross hospital food).

Let the hut be practical,

   with easy-open windows and doors,

   and a nonslip ramp.


Let the hut have a visitor’s book,

   and artworks of different sorts,

   to inspire creativity.


Let the hut have a hob to cook

   and a mini fridge,

   (the ill have to be so careful

   about food hygiene).


Let there be a place to shower.


Let someone who can change the bedsheets

   before and after the visit

   (it’s a knackering job).

Juliet Robertson, May 2023


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