Walking, on my own terms
When I was 11 and living in Scotland, my parents would take us to do nice long walks in the hills. My favourite option sounded like this: “I’ll sit here and read my book”. And then I’d read, until they came back down the path. I really didn’t like walking up boggy hillsides much.
After a few tricky attempts to keep up with my men, also on Scottish hillsides, I grew up and gave up. Now I’m back in Scotland with hills all around, and I discover that I still prefer sitting with a book.
I tried. I even bought waterproof over-trousers following that con-trick: ‘There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad equipment.’ Let me tell you, there IS such a thing as bad weather, and when it rains here, it’s usually rain blowing horizontally and chilled by the wind.
I kept trying. I found forgotten beaches by following sheep tracks. I climbed up to an ancient chapel in low cloud and horizontal rain in February. there was some sense of achievement. And I didn’t actually enjoy it.
At this point in my life, it is surely time to ditch the old ideas of what’s ‘good-for-you’ and how things ‘ought to be done’ for more creative ways of living.
Now I walk on my own terms.
When I go to the city, I walk miles on pavements and up steps. Here, in the country by the sea, I walk on the beaches when it is not raining, follow the curving edge of the water around the bay. I listen to the little noises of the waves, and clamber over rocks just for the fun of it. Through binoculars, I watch gannets diving and small boats and big rubbery seals lying upside down as if waiting for their massage. I can look at the glittering of the sea for hours. I pick up shells, take photographs of sand shapes and dead jelly fish.
My thinking mind relaxes and thoughts wander out towards the horizon. Sometimes this thought-wandering turns to loud singing or conversations with myself. Sometimes it condenses into ideas that I scribble down in my little ‘walking notebook’ to take back home.
This is the kind of walking that I love. This is the walking I do.