Warning: Some of the content in this post is of a personal nature which some readers may find offensive (tongue firmly in cheek).
It is said (by that illusive person ‘they say‘) that it ‘takes one to know one’. I’m talking about the committed walker. It is not difficult to spot them: the walker-with-purpose. They are different. Different from the dog-walker out for a ramble with the pooch; different from the afternoon strollers walking off the Sunday roast and definitely different from the tourist who always manages to look just a little bit dazed. No. They stick out from the crowd in a far more arresting way. They have an expression on their face that is totally focused on the task in hand. They often have a ‘rugged’ look about them and carry a small (sometimes large) rucksack with essential items: water bottle, map, shower macs, note-book perhaps and they are dressed in earnest. By that I mean, they wear proper, serious walking shoes/boots and evident layers of clothing that are ready to be whisked on or off at a moment’s notice according to weather conditions. They even bend forward in their act of walking as if their head is propelling them to move forwards. All the signs indicate purpose.
I passed one such character yesterday who held a notebook in his hand on which was written a load of stuff in pencil. How I would love to have stopped and asked him about the secrets of that notebook. Was he a writer / poet……or were these directions he had scribbled out for himself? He wore an invisible bubble around him and I felt unable to penetrate his private mission had I even had the nerve to do so. One instinctively knows when to leave well alone. This was not a time to intrude on a mindset obviously intent on some sort of inner journey. These people seem to occupy a space between the physical world and a private ‘other’ world lost in thought.
I still consider myself an apprentice walker. I’ve had over half a century to hone this particular craft but there is a lot to learn about the ways of the path and I am in the process of establishing my own etiquette, and more importantly, trying to find a way of integrating it into my creative practice in such a way that is meaningful and based on my own experience.
Knowing your limitations should never hold you back but I have learned to pace myself. A twisted ankle means weeks of painful bruising and time off for healing, so a lot of my time spent walking is watching where I put my feet. However, there is a section of my daily walk between two gates where there is a small incline. I have started to use this section to gently jog along to build up my core strength. I say jog, it’s more like an ungainly stagger. You see, I wasn’t designed to run….and those sisters out there who have been ‘blessed’ with an ample bosom will sympathise with me. But I’ve brought myself a new ‘over-the-shoulder-boulder-holder (Two Ronnies) sports bra which makes trotting more bearable, and I kid myself that the last part of this particular stretch is flatter so will be easier.
The other item on my essentials list is a ‘hiking’ stick….the carbon-fibre kind as opposed to the oap kind. (I did have two but lost one along the way.) This is an invaluable aid as an extension of my arm for steadying myself on uneven ground, a lever to pole-vault puddles or ditches, and shepherding dogs into the curbside. It is also a useful back-scratcher, or a fly switch in the same way that a horse might use his tail. Those horse flies are particularly pesky at the moment.
All the images for this post are anachronistic as I have chosen to use artworks that come out of different periods in my practice. As with everything in life, your knowledge is mostly based on your past experience and walking is no different. The difference is in the degree of intention and I shall continue to endeavor to find my own way of walking with purpose.
See more posts on Anachronism: ‘Back to the Future’ here