There’s a unique pleasure in coming to the top of a hill with no idea what you’ll see. It’s a giddy joy that I’d almost forgotten feeling, it having been years since I last walked anywhere unfamiliar. I’ve grown used to walking a very limited number of short routes, where I know who and what to be looking for in terms of wildlife. It’s been exciting heading out with no idea of what I might encounter.
There were beach trees with wonderful, twisty roots. Mossy secretive places where water ran. A river sparkling over rocks, dappled with tree shade. My first foxglove of the season. A copper filed maple (I think). I’ve not seen one of those before. Yellow poppies at the woodland’s edge. I don’t have a camera at the moment, I could not bring these wonders back to share.
I am finding that as I rebuild my strength, my confidence is coming back. I haven’t walked alone much since my early twenties, and the last few years had left me a nervous, cautious sort of walker. But, being out in the world alone, and determined to rely on myself I’ve found something of my own former strength. Alongside it I’ve rediscovered my love of adventure. I’ve been thinking a lot about the younger, more daring me who walked alone, and remembering what that person wanted and imagined.
I’ve found a lot of lost parts of myself of late. The person who can perch, pixie-ish and crossed legged just about anywhere. It’s curious how not being able to sit like myself, or get up from the floor had been a loss of self. I’m stronger now than I’ve been in years, and standing up from sitting on the floor is no longer prohibitively difficult.
Out in an unfamiliar landscape, I’ve re-found my capacity to daydream and speculate. There’s room in my head now for ideas and reflections, and that too feels more like a person I know and recognise. I wonder about the lives and stories suggested by the landscape.
After a week of wandering about here, I do know some landmarks. I stopped repeatedly on this most recent walk to see how it connected with other places I’ve been. Picking out lanes, starting to make sense of how roads, hills and waterways connect. Building a sense in myself of the shape of the land. It’s not a deep knowing, those take years to build, but there is delight in piecing together what I do know.
Today I dabbled in the luxury of being a little lost. I’d had a good look at the map before I headed out, but I didn’t carry a map. This is something I used to relish. I was hardly off the beaten track, there were footpath signs and it was easy enough to find my way. However, having reached the place I’d sought, I took a different route back, trusting what I knew of the land to find a way by guessing. I was rewarded with success, with views, and with a close encounter with a hare.