ACTUALLY SEEING

olderwI’ve been sorting and throwing out again. Notebooks, this time. Notebooks – you might call them journals or even diaries – are a habit of mine. I like buying them; I like starting new ones; I like the idea of writing every night or even every week, but it seems my grand days of diary keeping are over. As a teenager I rarely missed a night, and right into my thirties I was a diligent diarist, especially when I was travelling. For several years now I’ve hopefully begun a notebook in the New Year but run out of steam by February or March. Spring has been here for a while, but only now am I spring cleaning, and as well as bags of clothes for the Op Shop – most of which originally came from the Op Shop in the first place – I have been ripping out the used pages from these unused notebooks and re-purposing them. Nearly everything has been put into the fire, but I thought this was worth sharing. I wrote it on the 15th of January this year.

Today, when I took Gus for a walk around the park. I was thinking about the book I’ve been reading. It’s called The Old Ways; A Journey on Foot and it’s by Robert MacFarlane. It is about old roads – so far, I have travelled with him on the Ickneild Way, and along the coast on ‘the deadliest path in England’ (quicksand, tides) and then on ‘sea roads’ in the Hebrides and up a mountain on another Scottish island. I think the writing is beautiful. It’s clear – limpid and lucid are two other (much poncier) words that come to mind – and detailed and discursive and knowledgeable and informed. And in love with words. Perhaps that’s what I’m responding to the most. I’m not sure. I remember when I first read Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard and fell in love with that kind of nature writing. Adam Nicolson comes to mind, too; and E G Sebald.

Anyway, I thought I would try to apply some of his ideas to this familiar ‘old way’, which I do at least a hundred times a year. And what do I actually see? I often use the time (and I did, a bit, today) to work out ideas for my writing. But I don’t look most of the time – or look only glancingly. Robert MacFarlane could write a whole chapter, I’m sure, on the path around the Gardens. What did I see today?
Most vivid is a part of the walk when two brown butterflies (and I shall try to find out who they were) fluttered in tandem along under the oak trees that line the walking path, in and out of the shade, at times casting a pair of dancing shadows on the ground. The path was crunching with acorns and twigs and leaves lying on the ground after the parrots or cockatoos had raided the trees. That was my experience today – the crunch, and the butterfly dance.
Coming back through the grounds of the old hospital, I saw blackberries making a net over the border garden. Sinuous, prickled, a clever opportunist.

This brought me back to the other book I’m reading, which is Get Yourself Some Headspace by Andy Puddicombe. It fits, doesn’t it? Mindfulness, noticing. Being there. Actually seeing.

oldwaysThe copy I read in January I borrowed from the library – it had the cover pictured above. A few weeks ago I bought a copy for my brother’s birthday – it’s now a paperback, with  a new cover. Now, re-reading my little review, I think I will buy a copy for me. And maybe do some more walking while actually seeing. And maybe start another notebook.

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