So I’m looking up at this telegraph pole and hoping it stays upright in spite of gusty Doris, who’s strength pushed against me this morning as I tried to pull closed the door of my van. I battled but in the end had to get out and use all my strength to push it shut then climb in through the passenger door instead.
It’s a cliche I know but I think I learnt something about staying calm this morning, in spite of the relentless force blowing everything around outside. I know there’s a huge movement in favour of meditative practices emerging at the moment and it’s probably because the metaphorical storm is intensifying – pressure, politics, busyness. Meditation, prayer, mindfulness and so on, are not new but somehow more and more of us are becoming aware of the need to stop, think, reflect, be still, be aware. Earlier on today I was able to make myself a decent cup of coffee and sit still for twenty minutes and literally just drink that coffee. I savoured each mouthful and it tasted divine. It was like partaking in a holy act. I stared out of the window and watched the trees and telegraph wires being taken to their limits and the howling and whooshing trying to do everything it could to disturb. But as I sat, immersed in my one and only chosen ritual, I felt unruffled, calm and separate from the external forces. I remembered a story I’ve read a few times about a guy who falls asleep during a storm whilst out in a boat with his friends. His friends are panicking, thinking they are all going to die, frustrated with their friend who doesn’t seem to care and carries on sleeping. They wake him up and he reassures them that everything’s going to be ok, perhaps a little surprised that they are in such a frenzy. Then it’s as if the calm in him is so powerful that it makes the external storm cease. Wow. What if we were able to be so calm in spite of the mayhem and madness around us, that we could actually change the atmosphere of our time. What if peace is contagious.
After my coffee, I had to drive against these high winds and 50 mile an hour gusts – I could feel the van being rocked as I sat at the traffic lights. Trees and branches were down everywhere but I didn’t flinch.
Clouds in the sky of different formations; the sun on my arms and in my eyes. The chair outside that looks as if it is balancing on one leg with the others in the air. Umbellifer seed heads are visible above the horizon line and silhouetted against the sky. A robin perches on one. Geese trumpet their way somewhere to my left – I only hear them. Clear patches of ciel blue make me think of the coast. What looks like a long slow comet streaks across one of the patches – it’s a vapour trail and the plane looks like a needle and thread trying to pierce its way through the blue silk.
The sun is starting to sink lower in the sky, lighting up the more varied shaped clouds. Wisps and feathers appear higher up. I notice the telegraph pole poking up from within the straggly damson tree and brambles; thick ivy probably keeping it upright. Now the sun has disappeared behind the clouds and only the glow of its light shows through the thin gaps where they overlap. Some of the larger clouds have turned smoky grey and scud across the sky like a large shadowy UFO. There’s the robin again.
Oh wow! A curved white trail with a hint of pink is way up, the light catching the metal so it looks like a silver star, blazing a trail…and it’s gone. Here comes another and now two! They’re heading towards each other, the space between narrowing but now one has forged ahead. Slate blue clouds are invading from the left, like a shoal of jellyfish swimming together. A lovely splash of white behind them looks as if someone spilt some chalk dust or white pigment and then blew it away. Another plane glistens, from another direction this time and four birds get there quicker. The jellyfish have grown and now their shoal almost covers the higher part of the sky.
The last of the jellyfish are drifting off now and the pale blue is graphite smudged. The light is fading and the green field loses its emerald glimmer. The first star appears. The smudges turn to blurred watercolour bleeds and four tiny birds find a roost for the night. Dusk.
I’m wondering how many people have walked this path ahead of me…how many will walk behind, leaving temporary evidence that we are here, squeezing imprints of our chosen footwear into the sodden earth. We walk for different reasons…to get somewhere (though this seems to be a dying practice) to walk our dogs, for meditation or exercise. I wonder what it would look like if we could see the lines of our movements drawn onto the surface of the earth. How far and where would we have been? It’s interesting that we talk about our ‘carbon footprint’ yet this refers to anything but walking. If we walked more our carbon footprint would diminish in favour of our muddy ones. Our bodies are designed to walk…it’s one of those natural instincts and on the whole, we have the physical equipment built in. But we have created a world where our connections are a long way away. We work way beyond walking distance from our homes or we work from home so we only have to walk down the stairs to get there. We forget to leave time to allow for walking and it’s too expensive for people to live in places close to all the amenities they need. The artist Richard Long made art from his walks; he sensed something profound in the meditative activity of walking http://www.richardlong.org/index.html . It can give us time to think and prepare, time to notice things along the way. Whether we are artists or not, walking can add so much to our lives…it’s such a simple thing.