“I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.” ― John Muir, John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir
Walking has been my saviour during the pandemic.
I've been blessed — on so many levels.
But it's hardly new: I've been a walker all my life. In fact, when I look back on my sullen and broken childhood, it's the one thing that kept me sane and out of harm's way.
Isn't that wonderful — on a human level at least?
To think that taking one step after another — in my case, around, mostly, the quiet Devon lanes — has soothed so much of my troubled soul, and allowed me to arrive at a place of grace and forgiveness.
Of course, walking is not for everyone, but I can't think of anything better. And it's free, save the expense of a half-decent coat, a pair of walking shoes and a hat.
I must admit, though, that sometimes I don't really see walking as anything more than exercise. It is to an extent but it's very different to cycling, running or (if I must) going to the gym. It's 'moderate' as they say. Actually, the real exercise is an inner form of work out, or should I say working inwards. It enables us, or it does me, to walk through and off my melancholy, to quieten my busy mind and, if necessary, to process and quietly ruminate on the day's events. It's not always the case but after two hours, or whatever time I've got, I always come back more restrained, quieter and contemplative of the extant situation that was laying low around my soul.
Sadly, one day, I won't be able to walk or not as much as I'd like. My knees, back, hips or the old ticker will get the better of me; but I'm really hopeful, if I look after myself as best I can, that, god willing, I'll keep going to the end. If not, I'm not sure what else I'll do. In fact, the prospect of only being able to look outside and not go outside for a little stroll makes me feel quite anxious. I do realise that that's what it's been like for a lot of people during the pandemic and I can't begin to imagine how tough that's been.
This morning I will, on cue, leave my house and walk either in the direction of Brent Tor or Owley Beacon. I've decided not to take Alfie; I need to be with myself and not have him constantly yank on the lead, and choose a route where I know he won't end up chasing the sheep, cows or many birds that we've got in the hedgerows. This is very much the exception but something deep down tells me that I need to be alone to work through or at least consider a number of serious and significant issues that are circling right now. Without going into too much detail, let's just say that Brian's death has spurred me into action about (of all things) my financial future but not just that but how I've wasted so much of life on a peripatetic journey to...nowhere. Here I am, aged 52, and I'm thinking, "Is that it?" — all the hurry-scurry, career-climbing nonsense amounts to this? This life. This financial situation. This brittleness.
Oh, woe is me...
Don't worry, I'm not seeking sympathy. I'm here because I'm here. I know that sounds tautological but (at least) one of the things I'm always brought back to is that my life, as difficult as it is to properly understand, is still my life. There's no going back to undo or change the past, nor is there a way of knowing what tomorrow will bring, let alone the next few hours — save my walk of course. In short, we go where we go, do what we do, and there's no all-seeing, all-knowing homunculus directing any of it — i.e. a little man called 'me'. But of course, to the egoic self, it wants answers. There are none and I hope that, inter alia, my walk allows me to reflect on the things that are coming up right now, not to make sense of them but to be fully accepting of everything — as if I've got a choice.
Anyhow, that's enough of my self-referential nonsense. It's time to get going. I'm not going to do a story on Instagram today. In fact, I might just abandon the whole practice — it's becoming a bit of a distraction from the main show, namely walking. Oh, the irony.
Blessings, and much love
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