Text: Memories and Dreams: Wandering Between Aotearoa’s Volcanic Mountains and Scotland’s Munro - Nichelle Santagata. Image: a volcano (Mount Ngāuruhoe) in Aotearoa behind clouds at sunset.

Memories and Dreams: Wandering Between Aotearoa’s Volcanic Mountains and Scotland’s Munros

I never know how many climbs and falls I will endure in my lifetime but, I come to terms more and more that this unknown is part of my journey. Sometimes when climbing mountains, there is no clear path and I have to make my own through treacherous terrains, but I know levelled-out lands are on the horizon.


Past, Present and Future

The day of all days has come where I am standing on my two feet on this mountain where I peer out to what seems like a sea of clouds among the windy skies. While standing on the mountain, I feel my body drift between my present, my past, and my future. I am standing among Mount Ngāuruhoe’s active volcano in Aotearoa. My 2015 journal entry describes my journey along the snowy and icy Tongariro Alpine Crossing witnessing a mini avalanche. Yet, I am simultaneously standing in my dreams in Scotland upon Ben Nevis’s volcanic remnants with ever-changing weather altering between rain and shine filling me with delight as I fill my new journal’s lines. It is a memory of the past and a dream of the future yet a reality here and now combining into one long journey.

The journey across these mountains means wandering along narrow pathways while leaning into the mountainsides away from the ledges and expanding my arms out to my sides when passing a crater. As I climb, my adrenaline rushes through my body from my green safety helmet to my dark waterproof boots. Each step closer to the top is never the same step as the one before. Hiking can be an improvisation of movement while still trying to learn footing as safely as I can from previous steps and landscapes. Between climbs and seeking heights, preparations must be highly considered. Bringing a compass to learning the star constellations to knowing which way rivers flow. Then stacking omni-dry layer on top of omni-dry layer to battle the cold, gaiters fastened around ankles to keep me dry, boots strong enough to handle my feet digging into the ground making my presence known. I carry the weight of many yummy sandwiches filled with smooth sweetened peanut butter, a first-aid kit, toilet paper for when the base porta potty runs out, and anything else I could possibly think of. Nourishing brain and body before, during, and after each climb is highly valuable but still, no matter how prepared I believe I am, there is always the reality that I may hit rock bottom.


Hiking Through Hidden Worries

I have climbed and jumped heights and I have tripped and tumbled many times leading to one of my legs being harmed in nature. I carry hidden worries within me that harm will happen again in nature, leaving me behind to wilt on the ground. But I dig through those worries to keep blooming and healing because I still possess confidence and power every time my foot plants on the ground while hiking. I may never move the same way as before but I continue along these paths, whether smooth or rocky, feeling my body fill with more encouragement while moving forward day in, day out. I feel invincible yet still vulnerable. I feel myself more than existing; I am living!

I erupt, hollering with glee: ‘Woo!’ ‘Yeah!’ My laughter echoing among the ridges and edges of the lands, crossing over rivers, and reaching around the entire globe. The winds answer to my belting by whispering sweet nothings in my ears which means everything to me. I feel the winds welcoming my healing spirit to stay among these mountains for as long as I may desire. 



What The Winds Tell Me

The winds tell me to lead with my head and heart. The winds tell me to take the legs I learned to walk in again and climb further on in Scotland. The winds are telling me to keep loving myself while still embracing shifts in each direction, braving my side-steps and backward steps until being able to step forward again. 

My soul is home among both lands full of mountains of my past and future, greeting me with warmth even in the most freezing moments. I will forever remember Aotearoa and take those joyful accomplishments with me into the cheerful triumphs of Scotland today and tomorrow. All moments of my steps will forever be part of my story. I embrace all emotions and thoughts as I continue wandering through an odyssey of erosions and avalanches to reach monumental moments. 

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A Black woman with long hair and a blue jacket standing under a tree.

Nichelle Santagata is a nonfiction, prose, and poetry writer focusing on identity, culture, race, travel, and mental health. She is a hip hop and contemporary dancer, performance artist, photographer, short filmmaker, and illustrator, originally from Arizona, United States.

Nichelle is currently based in Glasgow, Scotland working through her Sociology PhD focusing on Black women’s mental health using autoethnography and arts-based methods. She received her Master of Liberal Studies from Arizona State University, Postgraduate Certificate in Comparative Literatures and Cultures from University of Bristol, and Bachelor of Arts in English Literature with a minor in Film & Media Studies while also studying dance and music at Arizona State University. Nichelle likes to chill with cats, watch Ghibli films, and dance ‘til dawn!

Website: https://www.nichellesantagata.com/

Instagram: @NichelleSantagata

Photo credit: Matthew Arthur Williams

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