THE path wynds. It’s old. They say it was for carrying the dead over the hill from the glen below in woven coffins.

Another midsummer sees me taking time to rest, steady myself, ready myself in between the many assaults that come to those of us who insist that there must be refuge for those with a ­well-founded fear of persecution.

World Refugee Day – June 20 – brings its own meditations, mostly political. This year, I ready myself for the work to come in more contemplative ways. I’ve been in a season of carrying so many who have died of late, near and far.

The path wynds between the birks, soft in their downy lichen, and old. Many shed branches and some come down with the storms or the weight of the snow. ­Horseshoe bracket fungi ride up the old trunks and that’s the closest we come to a ride, to our bodies being transported.

But not so the mind. It’s like being in a procession of ancestors and companion plants. I see the small child migrating ­between glens, carefully balancing a birch bucket of milk. I sense the heavy weave of tweed pulled close through the snowflakes, and the felted brogues slipping on the frosty ground. I hear a chattering as the slope steepens by the burn.

The hazels were once coppiced, the many straight stems now belying the fact that they are coppiced no more. It’s a mast year, clearly, the bushes are full of nuts swelling in the sunshine and soaking in the rain. If we are lucky, we can collect them like the laughing ones I hear in my mind’s eye down the echoes of the centuries, come September. Likely enough the squirrels will have them first though.

It’s high summer. St John’s Wort is in bloom, Columba’s flower – Lus Chaluim Chille – Hypericum is the Latin name we take for its categorisation. The Latin speakers lived here too, or so the stones would tell us, the Romans camped out down the road, for a wee while. Long enough for their brogue to linger and find an elevation within a science.

On the tops of these hills, I know there to be stone circles, hut circles, ­standing stones and chambered cairns. And there are homesteads. Ancient ones. The ­Ordnance Survey appear from the maps to have experienced a degree of mission creep early on, leaving us with precision pinpointing of our ancestors’ work, and little by the way of ordnance dumps.

As the old way meanders upwards my breathing becomes laboured. All the way up the slope there are remnants of the once-abundant juniper. For all it is now a gin-soaked thought endangered by the trend for botanicals it’s the staining scent that lingers on my finger and thumb as I touch the spiky leaves.

In places, there are signs of regrowth. The hawthorn is browsed by deer and on the moorland above – a site of ­special scientific interest – for all that it’s ­under legal protections there will be sheep grazing the flowers into scarcity from an ­abundance. Just as there have been sheep grazing every summer, I’ve ventured up here for the last 20 years. My own ­summer of restorative seasonal migration. Part of remembering how to take care of the needs of the body, mind and spirit. A sabbath, if you will. A time of laying down the work.

In places, the path is a spring rising, and we bog hop over the soft ground, knowing this land and its lie well, our gait steady. The heather is nearly in bloom and the bell heather already ringing her purple song out in joy at the light, at the sheer audacity of the length of the light, and the shortness of the night. Bog Cotton bobs away in the breeze, almost translucent, almost silver.

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I think to hear a keening as the path offers rest and the incline lessens. If this was the coffin road, then here are the echoes of songs that would gather around the bodies being cradled by willow ­wicker towards a rest. I wonder at the balms used, the herbal preparations, the ritual cleansing of the body, those who waited by a bedside, of a child, of a parent. At the prayers said. I wonder as I remember the bodies we’ve lain to rest of late, and those of the many in the wars that grip my heart’s work, that are thrown into mass graves.

The path joins us, levelling with us about life and steady in the telling of what we may expect. It’s been a bruising few years. Browsed to a stump like the ­hawthorn we are. There isn’t much left. This land is a desert. So many of the plants and flowers are plucked off in the sheep’s hunger. Migratory voices reach me on the breeze like the sound of the grasses and the leaves, soft, tender, the distant herding of cattle was part of the seasonal transhumance of cattle to shielings up the far glen. Women, children. With songs helping to keep the younger legs climbing. My grandchild is similarly encouraged.

The coffin road was for the living too. And yet so much of what was is ­dying. Each seasonal climb of this hill is a ­different delight, full of a richness I find drawing me into an ever-renewing quality of attention, watching for the shapes of familiar branches, the dip in the path that can turn an ankle, the point where the lone pine tree appears to mark the high point before we reach a gate. We leave the moor behind and enter a grassy pasture.

The slope faces south, and the ­coffin road turns off towards the glen. We stop at the source, a natural spring with the sweetest water in the Highlands. It’s a place for respect. And silence, maybe prayers are to be said here, and certainly faces are washed and the sweetness is tasted from the well.

In winter, I’d play music here, fingers frozen to the metal keys. In spring too, bedecked in waterproofs and braving the hollow as if it were a crater on the moon. Today, I stoop to listen to her own music. The gurgle of water is soothing. Around the spring are flowers. In a transect of a metre squared I count 25 – and could keep on going.

Their names taught me by some of those voices that accompany me on the path. Grandparents and ­parents teaching names which were never lost to me, and which feel each year like a ­homecoming at Midsummer. This is my own transhumance.

In all the 20 years of visiting there has never been such a profusion. The sheep, it seems, have been cleared from the land to which they were hefted.

And now there are cattle, a herd of around 20 head. They bellow away but their mouths are softer on the land and the flowers have returned and ­abundantly.

Daisy – for bruising; Horsetail – for hair and nails; Self-heal – for wounds; Coltsfoot. Red clover – for sleep; White clover; Lady’s mantle; Lady’s bedstraw – for the scent; Thistle; Mountain thyme – for the flavour; Tormentil; Rock rose; Ribwort Plantain – for teas, for nerves; Leopards Bane; Yellow Rattle; Eyebright – for bright eyes; Yarrow – to staunch the bleeding; Alpine Bistort; Orchid – for the breath-taking beauty; Marsh ­Marigold; Ling – for sweet teas; Speedwell; ­Milkwort; St John’s Wort – for the spirits; Dandelion – for a tonic.

Fairy flax – for a mind needing mystery.

It’s a rare delight. Everywhere flowers that are the welcome to summer, that are the song of this wee mountain, that are the taste of the air as it clouds and clears.

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At the sight of them, I slow my step, pause, and bend over their faces in ­greeting, the world’s work melting into the background as I go at the speed of this joy-filled attention. I seek for the echoes of namings that will refresh theirs, the ones I was taught, which are different to those of the Gaelic, or the Latinates.

At the sight of Yellow Rattle, I’m in the meadows of the Dales, Rock Rose, and I’m up on Silver Howe, Thyme and I am of the Dark Peak, its tiny pink flowers like lights under the brooding granite. Each name is soothing, a steady seasonal presence and a return of something bright and hopeful. Just one change to the grazing and there are also tiny saplings poking up – a Rowan, a Birch, even Juniper.

I don’t know how we live through and die through what is to come. Every World Refugee Day marks the loss of more of the protections and provisions. As ­political leadership in these lands is contested ­using a barometer of cruelty, whilst many cannot feed themselves or their children, the past feels hauntingly close, the livings eked out in hardship and under both frost and the high sun have tales to tell. In the minutiae of this braeside, and across the magnitude of the world.

I stop at the stone circle wondering. All is mystery and all the archaeology tells is “recumbent” and “standing”, prone like the juniper, and erect like the birch. ­Stories twist in the air with the breeze, embellished with tormentil and heather. The stones, half-covered with the flowers that delight.

What were they for, so soft in their ­presence, so unmonumental? Was this where the dead lay, or the milk ­curdled, or the balms were prepared? Was this for singing and sunlight or stars?

Images reach us from new telescopes showing stars born in high ­resolution. These are not times for the grainy ­imprecision of my dreams, where nothing is resolved or solved.

Yet, still, under my fingers the stone is losing definition. The future too, is light years from clarity, like the shadows of the past. So much knowing seemingly so lost, and having lost us with it, and we our way, but perhaps the seeds are only sleeping, waiting for the grazing to slow, to ­become less relentless, for ­dormancy to find sunlight and spring water, not tongues and teeth. Waiting for us to bend in slow greeting as the faces turn ­towards a light, as names are remembered ­seasonally, a spring sound, and a way of living in ­circles.

Waiting for rhythms of restoration. Hope is a fierce and fragile thing.

Like fairy flax.

Alison Phipps is Unesco Chair for Refugee Integration through Languages and the Arts at the University of Glasgow