Metaphoric: A Gone Viking Story
I stood on what felt like the edge of the earth. Which it was, in a way. Cusp of terra firma.
Beyond, nothing but sea and sky. I’d hiked a hundred miles to get here. Not all at once, but over
a staggered series of walks, climbs, and rambles. An undulating coast path written about by
countless authors – dreamers, novelists, poets – all equally awed, feeling as though we were
seeing this land, these vistas, for the very first time. Undiscovered terrain, irrespective of how
many times each of us had passed through. A trap that’s ensnared me countless times.
Experiencing places, even familiar ones, anew. The magic of exploration through blissfully
A red-billed black chough clung to a grassy green slope. Gannets dropped, plummeting into
the sea from the sky. And a handful of gulls soared as though posing for canvas, artist and palette
unseen. But sensed, and felt. Not merely close but connected. Observer, observing, observed.
What brought me here was, in part, my ongoing Gone Viking saga. One I’ve written about, off
and on, for two decades. Exploring the globe, tracking footsteps of those having passed before,
and those yet to pass. Nomadic pursuits. All with a relative purpose, finding gaps in a plot and
plugging the holes. Constructing a new mosaic. Tapestry. Underlying stories that inspire it all.
Pulling at threads to see where they started. Where they are. Perhaps even where they are going.
The path on the coast, at this point, follows a cliff. A wash of soft seashore pushing at
sandstone and granite, climbing into slate and basalt. Ancient earth, poised next to timeless sea.
Shush of breakers rolling on shore, pulling, pushing, erosion and buildup of continents, a
chronometer measuring epochs.
If I’m being honest, I was utterly lost. Hubris, however, coaxed me to confidence. Of course I
knew where I was, big picture, what with the ocean and land. The sun more or less plotting a
course, letting me know east from west, subsequent north and south. So, not lost lost. But there
was no longer any sign of a path. Nor a trail. Or any indication of a directional sign. Just me
knowing precisely where I was in the world but without any notion as to how I could, or should,
proceed. It was, in a way, a definition of life and its endless array of crossroads.
And so, with an amorphous blend of certainty and not having a clue, I carried on, knowing it
would all be okay. Resolution. Perseverance. Resolve. The path not only vanishing sand
underfoot, but wholly metaphoric as well.
Bill Arnott is the bestselling author of the Gone Viking travel memoirs (Gone Viking: A
Travel Saga, Gone Viking II: Beyond Boundaries, Gone Viking III: The Holy Grail) and A
Season on Vancouver Island. He’s the winner of numerous literary awards and for his
expeditions received a Fellowship at London’s Royal Geographical Society. When not trekking
the globe with a small pack and journal, Bill can be found on Canada’s west coast, making music
and friends. @billarnott_aps