I had to spend a couple of hours in Berkhamsted recently while the girls rehearsed for a school play. This gave me time to fill and I decided to go for a walk locally. The country paths are still really wet and muddy but I couldn’t be bothered putting my gaiters on and so decided to walk on roads and explore the town instead.
Walking up the steep hill to the north from the canal gave me yet another chance to practise not getting wound up by circumstances and not feeling sorry for myself. Yes I was on roads rather than country paths, yes the hill was steep, yes the weather was overcast and chilly, but rather than get frustrated at any of this I just put one foot in front of the other. I noticed my breath and the stretch in my muscles. I noticed the textures of the metalled path I was walking on. I noticed the architectural shift from small, terraced houses to very large properties standing in their own grounds as I moved out of the town.
My route back down the hill was on a more remote lane and afforded wide views across countryside and over the town. The wind was strong and gusting and instead of regretting that I wasn’t up a mountain in snow, as I had hoped for that week, I enjoyed the wide horizon and bracing buffeting.
I’ve been reading Alan Watts The Book again recently and in it he talks about our tendency to seek happiness in what we consider good, and to experience unhappiness when we are inflicted with what we consider bad. He makes the point that we can’t have the one without the other. We wouldn’t know what good was if we didn’t know bad.
This got me thinking about the difference between a good walk and a bad walk. I wouldn’t know what a bad walk was unless I had experienced a good walk but how do I define either? I can have good walks in less pleasant places and bad walks in beautiful places. I can enjoy the challenge of a hard walk and be bored with an easy bimble. I can’t have the pleasure of coming down from a hill if I hadn’t exerted effort on the up. In fact this is one of the aspects of hill walking that people find hard to understand – that very often the extreme effort of the up is more fun than the apparently easier, but knee jarring and accident prone down.
These thoughts helped me really, really enjoy this very ordinary bit of road bashing in grey weather. It was what it was, and wasn’t what it wasn’t. I didn’t “try” to enjoy it. I wasn’t intellectualising away negativity. I just let it be what it was – good and bad, up and down, and enjoyed it immensely!