I now have a week’s worth of “good intention” walks under my belt. It has been fertile territory for ideas, thoughts and observations and the weather has been kind.
Each morning, bar one, I have walked the cycle paths, tracks and side roads within an hour of the house. I write the odd word or two in the small notebook as I walk along. My routes radiate to each and every point of the compass and amongst many other things I have been thinking about the simple pleasure of walking.
Some days I could just carry on, and on and on. On to the next village, town and county and on till I bump up against a coast line, to bounce back at an angle, zig zagging my way across the country.
Close to the village I meet dog walkers. Away from the village I am the only one on the road. I think about how unusual it is nowadays to see lone and dogless walkers. People used to walk from village to village, to work, to market and to neighbours and to church.
I remember the familiar and oddly comforting figure of an old tramp from many years ago. Just a harmless loner always wrapped in an old coat and knitted hat whatever the weather. He would call at the house for food, sleep in the old glass house along the lane, move on and be back in a month or so. I can understand that life. But now, in this paranoid world I am aware that lone walkers, found away from accepted tracks and footpaths are viewed with suspicion. I carry an obvious camera to legitimise my walking and wish I was invisible.
I have loved being out in the weather. One day it rained, just summer rain but heavy enough. With no shelter nearby I walked on. The rain seeped through to my skin, dashed against my face and dripped from my hair and I thought how we avoid rain at all costs now. But there was nothing to spoil and it was just another sensation and a part of being out there. One grey chilly morning a 4 x4 passed by. It was all black, windows, paintwork and heart. Its unseen occupants cocooned and so far protected from the vagaries of the natural world that they could have been on a different planet. I wondered if they pitied my trudging, while I pitied their separation.
Walking is slow so it’s hard not to notice things. There are visual things, from the tiny sleeping bees in the ragwort to the magnificent apocalyptic skies of recent unsettled days. There are sounds, of waves, of the wind and of the cries of birds. There are smells of heat and cold, of wet and dry, of life and of death.
There are physical things, the sun on my back, the pain in my joints, stones in my shoe, nettle and thistle stings and the elephant grass cutting my face as I walk the narrow field track. And there are metaphysical things the whys and wherefores of life and those big questions that come to mind as you walk along. Some of these are troublesome so I leave them on the path, to pick them up and wrestle with their complexities another day.
And it occurs to me that walking is a sort of gathering up and letting go activity, at best, collecting the good and jettisoning the bad.
These thought gathering walks will hopefully continue. It’s a good and easy habit while the weather is fair. Cold, rain and dark will be more testing. I am getting to know this area well and ideas for The Project are beginning to form. Next week’s good habit will be some daily drawing of some kind, but now the sun is almost up and my walking shoes are by the door.
Sunrise on yesterday’s shining morning…
the reservoir path…
a constant shoreline companion…
and the road home…