Dr Julie Carter



Morning Sunshine on Blencathra

Last autumn I needed to take a break from writing this blog, not because I got tired of doing it, but because I was running out of hours in the day. I’d imagined having a month or two off but time got away; now it’s spring and at last the blog is back. Another task I did not manage in the latter stages of last year was planting salads. At the end of each summer, I usually make sowings in our greenhouse to supply us with fresh leaves throughout the winter and spring. Now I’m regretting I didn’t make time for that either. This will not do. I’m trying to kick the habit of beating myself for my many failings, and instead just take note and act. Salad seedlings are now planted and germinating. I resolve to cultivate both nourishing leaves and nourishing words, through spring, summer, autumn and winter.

It’s not that I’ve been slacking—I’ll come to what’s been occupying me shortly, but first I’d like to tell you a little story. It’s a story about heaven. Don’t worry I’m not taking a religious turn; I mean those little experiences of the sublime which are possible in our everyday lives through ordinary things. Yes, there is much in the world that is hellish and brutal, and I am ridiculously privileged to have enough to eat, even if it’s not fresh salad, and also to live in a great place where I am relatively secure, surrounded by people I love. At the very least that privilege comes with a responsibility not to take any of it for granted. So here is a short piece about a moment of appreciation.


I’m sitting here at Blencathra’s feet, by the quiet roadside leading up through the village Threlkeld, to Gary’s Garage. I was on the way to drop to off my car for its MOT but the mountain called to me to pay attention, and I just needed to stop, and look. Perched on the verge, and looking upwards in the clear morning sunshine, each patch of fell has its own nuance of green, brown, grey and gold woven together in a tapestry of colours. Something is happening to me sitting here, and I start to cry. I cannot say it is happiness or sadness or release or any other feeling I have a word for. I have no religious intent and yet this feels like the exchange of sacrament.

I remember that other time on Blenacthra, at 2.30 am during the night of my 55@55, when I took Bob Graham’s challenge of running up 42 peaks under twenty-four hours and added another thirteen, because I was 55 years old. I was cold and wet and spent when on that rocky ridge of Hall’s Fell, leading to the summit, I looked up into the blackness, and saw an angel perched there, a real angel, who had appeared just for me. My friend’s headtorch was shafting through the rain, refracting beams of encouragement and love. That night, when my guardian angel appeared in torchlight and mist, I still had five peaks to climb, and miles to go before my sleep.

There is a poet who is more than a writer, she is my unmet guru, who truly leads me home. She is Mary Oliver and she told me that—

“Only if there are angels in your head will you ever possibly see one.”

Now, in this sunny moment, sitting at Blencathra’s feet, all sunlit and tear stained, I have need of nothing. I hold no belief in a heaven after death and I have no need of one. Heaven is a place I can visit, on the way to get my car its MOT.


Now for some of reasons the blog was temporarily absent!

In October Saraband published an anthology of nature writing from the North to which I contributed a long essay called ‘The Scafells—A Place of Highest Honour’. I am honoured myself to be published alongside some great writers old and new. Here is a link to the book. North Country

Anyone who has read ‘Running the Red Line’ will know that I am an advocate of exploring our perceived boundaries and stepping outside our comfort zones once in a while. Well, I’m really practicing this philosophy at the moment by developing a one-woman theatre performance which will have its first public trial on the 3rd June (see events page Mindfell events). Backed by an Arts Council Grant and the Theatre by the Lake in Keswick, and in partnership with Wordsworth Trust and Lancaster University I am surrounded by excellent supportive professionals including my director Daniel Bye. But the truth is the whole process of writing for and performing theatre is totally new to me. Am I scared? Just a bit. Or perhaps it’s all excitement.

The other piece of great news is that my next book is with the editor and the publication date is early September. There’s still work to do and I’ll share more about this in future, including some reflections on the process of writing it. Of all the things I have ever done this has been one of the most effortful and the most rewarding. I’m just hoping that a few other people will gain something from the reading, as I have done from the writing.

That’s all for now but do expect a monthly blog again and as always, I’m delighted to hear from you. And don’t forget to savour the little moments of heaven, wherever you can find them

All the very best