Breathing Space: 12 Memories of Breathing Adventure

How aware are you of air? Do you appreciate breathing in your life? I feel that adventuring has made me a bit of a connoisseur! Perhaps it started as a child, when before the invention of inhalers I struggled with asthma. So I was sent to have ‘breathing lessons’ (good old NHS) and my wheezing turned to breathing – freedom! Air became my friend to be cherished and enjoyed.

I love walking the Lakeland fells where I luckily live. The cool early morning air, promises the riches to come. I relish the labour uphill, breathing deep and regular, pushing onwards and upwards. Breathing is easier with the summit in sight. On the top, rest and solitude; calm breaths of meditation and mindfulness with blue views of new horizons. I return with spirit, body nourished and well-aired.

Here are some special air experiences and breathing memories – perhaps you will recognise some!

12 Moments of Breathing Adventure

1. Climbing Pembrokeshire's sun-drenched sea cliffs: air warm, chalky and sweaty; fearful, fast, shallow breaths, dry constricted throat.

2. Vancouver Island , sea kayaking: ozone and salt taste on the tongue, rank seaweed tang; slow solid breaths with diaphragm working hard, sustained effort to last stroke after stroke.

3. High on Mount Kenya summit bivouac: cool golden sunset, drifting to sleep - roused by deep oxygen- starved recovery breath – drift – recovery breath – drift ...

4. Cycling the English lanes in summer: alternating waves of warmth with honeysuckle and wild rose overtones, followed by damp, earthy, shady dips.

5. Mont Blanc – finding an attitude to altitude: piercing thin air, burning lungs, balancing pace to pain.

6. Walking a hot Zambian road: dust clutching throat, wood smoke, nostrils desiccated, cracked.

7. Michigan winter snow camp: stink damp and fetid inside sleeping bag with socks, boots and water bottle, or risk frostbitten nose outside bag!

8. Merrick , Range of the Awful Hand(!) Galloway: crouching spider run, fighting to stay grounded; winded, breath blown away in the gale.

9. Norway cross country skiing: air sparkling with snow dust, minus 10 degrees C; nostrils prickly with ice, breathing measured and paced.

10. Familiar easy breathing downhill at the end of the day in the Scottish Highlands: sour waft of peat smoke, cool darkening valley air.

11. Childbirth (perhaps the most amazing adventure!): close confines of blood and sweat, panting, gasping, breathing deep to ride the pain. Feeling the first baby-sized breaths of your child.

12. Sitting with my Mum for her last paused, slow breaths. Silence - spirit flown. Thankful for her good life well- lived.

So give yourself some breathing space, get out there and gasp some brisk, bright air. Celebrate your breath of life – there’s all sorts to be tried!

Debbie Watson is 60 years old and has loved adventuring from an early age. Climbing trees and scrumping apples was an early passion! She studied Environmental Sciences at University of East Anglia and helped organise student led expeditions to study glaciers in Iceland, Jotunheimen Mountains in Norway and Spitsbergen. After qualifying as a teacher she worked for Outward Bound in the Lake District, Scotland and Canada – especially enjoying sea kayaking up the coast and exploring the West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island. She and her husband climbed Mt Kenya on their honeymoon.

She lived with her family for 14 years at a Field Centre up a forest track in the Western Lake District and loved feeling part of the landscape over time. She worked as a Primary teacher and was committed to Forest Schools and exploring outside the classroom. She now assists teachers to include a wider awareness of the world, helping children to discover how they are interconnected locally and globally and can be active in creating a fairer and more sustainable world.

In her spare time she loves growing her own veg, sea kayaking, cross country skiing, wild swimming followed by a good cup of tea and wants to plant more trees. Hillwalking has been limited over the last 2 years due to painful knees, but she is now recovering from surgery and looks forward to tramping the hills again in 2019.