Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Afternoon
Living with other people is nice, and it’s something that I’ve always done, out of necessity more than anything, but what can you do? Something you don’t often think about when you live with other people is that, in all likelihood, somebody always knows where you are. Or at least has an idea. There’s nothing wrong with this, it’s just what happens when someone else’s routine is so tightly wound around yours. What I enjoy about going for walks, the likes of which I did yesterday, is that it is a break in those windings. All of a sudden, you are like an unobserved electron. Nobody knows where you are. You might run into somebody you know, or you might take some pictures, or maybe somebody will ask what you’re up to. But unless you tell people, in whatever way, the moments you experience are your secret forever, and they are entirely yours in a way nothing else in your life will ever be.
I live near a nature reserve that I have spent many lonely, silent, secret hours in, and I am blessed that it has been a part of my life. I went for a walk there yesterday because it was snowing, and I rarely get an opportunity to see those woods, fields, and the River Nene, during that kind of weather. It was absolutely beautiful, and I am truly thankful that something like that is completely free, and only a twenty minute walk from where I live.
I first experienced this feeling, without knowing what it was, when I was a teenager. I would have been about fifteen or sixteen. I suffered from insomnia then as I do now. Sometimes, when it was around five in the morning and light out, and I knew that sleep was impossible, I would steal out of the house quietly, careful not to wake up my mother or my sister. I always left a note explaining where I was; these secret things are delicate and you should be completely willing to let them go, to give of them. In the end, I was always back before anyone else woke up; before anyone could find out where I had been.
One time sticks in my mind. As usual, it was about 5am. It was during the summer, I was off school, and I couldn’t sleep. My youth is typified by long stretches of, not loneliness as such, but definitely feeling alone. I got to Nene Park at about 5am. The golden glow of the early sun was just starting to reach over the treetops, but it hadn’t yet intensified enough to burn the mists off the lakes. It looked like something out of Lord of the Rings. I only saw one other person that morning, and it was someone I didn’t recognise. He was taking pictures of the lakes. I wonder if anyone knew where he was. I suppose they’d know when they see the photographs.
I was thinking about all this because when I went for my walk yesterday, nobody knew where I was, and there was nobody with me. All my experiences would be my own secret little moments. Like when I decided to take a different path, through what’s called Bluebell Wood, because it was largely untrodden, and it occurred to me that I couldn’t remember ever following that path before. That is something of what I try and do when I go out on my solitary walks; I often try and look at my everyday environment and think of a place in it I haven’t been before, even something as small as an alleyway, or a cul-de-sac I’ve never had a reason to go to the end of.
I’ve come to really enjoy going for walks. I started doing it more often when I quit smoking, because I saw a guide that suggested it’s good for you, and that exercise helps stop cravings. Of course, exercise is good for you anyway. I am particularly interested because it does help my mental health to make sure I go for walks regularly, and I am trying to take my mental health more seriously.
I see these things, and no one will ever know I’ve seen them. Unless I tell you about it. Or show you some pictures.