Ten Degrees of Strange

Recently I’ve been listening to this fine tune by Johnny Flynn and Robert Macfarlane:

‘Ten Degrees of Strange’ by Johnny Flynn and Robert Macfarlane

Check it out. The video is awesome, the most wonderful transformations of emotion animated through clay. It’s just stunning, an ever-shifting canvas.

In the sleeve notes Flynn describes the song as being about “trying to outrun depression, seeking joy and strength in landscape and movement.” It’s a theme that I feel a strong affinity with, in the work I’m doing with young people and in the context of my own search for mental wellbeing. The dog is perhaps an overused metaphor, but still a good one. It’s sometimes close, sometimes distant, but always there. I feel less like running when I’m tired or alone, and that gives the dog an opportunity to make up some ground. “So I run ‘cause I must”.

I love the depersonalisation of the dog too. When I feel depressed, it isn’t my fault. It isn’t because my life is crap or I made a wrong decision or nobody loves me. I’ve just been caught by the dog, and I need to find a way to escape. It might take me a few hours, or a few days or even more if I feel really stuck, but I always get away somehow. I like to think I’ve got better at it over the years.

We come alive in the landscape. There’s healing and contentment in the forest, on the beach or in the hills, and solitude and peace on a summit or by a riverside. Companionships are strengthened. A child sat next to me on a windswept tor last week and said “I feel like myself here” and the power and wisdom of that brief exchange still resounds. Maybe the dog will always be there, but we can leave it in the distance for a little while at least.

“Oh I’m ten degrees of strange

But I’m trying to change,

Tryin’ to shake off my shadow,

Still hoping to get out

Of the black dog’s range.”

Hope you enjoy the song, and if any of this sounds like you and you fancy a walk in the woods with me sometime please let me know.

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