It seems all my favourite teachers have one thing to tell me.
Stop, they say. Just stop.
Today, my day off work, I woke luxuriously late and then I planned to get on with attempting to write a PhD proposal outline. But then Colin, the dog, insisted it had been a long week without a proper walk. So, I stopped with the planning, for the time being, and walked.
We walked up the driveway in the dry, clear, cool air.
The weather has changed at last, and the long wet has abruptly left us with huge blue skies and air that demands that lip balm be applied frequently. Funny how everything feels more expansive without all that cloud cover, without the press of humidity, the weight of rain. The newspaper when I scrunch it for the fire doesn’t hold its shape, it wants to stay open, and when I scrunch it the sound it makes is so much more crackly, and the feel of it is so much raspier in my hands.
Walking with a blue sky above and dry ground beneath my feet feels almost luxuriously expansive. It’s like I can’t quite believe it, the openness that is suddenly here, and certainly can’t quite trust it – whether the heavy grey clouds are about to crawl right back over us, or whether we are suddenly being plunged into the other extreme, and soon will be missing the moisture as we watch mosses crinkle and staghorns droop and die.
But whatever will be, will be, with the weather, I remind myself as we climb up into the neighbouring property. For now, let us enjoy this, as the birds are enjoying it, singing their hearts out, it seems, from almost every limb of every tree.
Mind is still turning over the problem of the PhD proposal as we walk. But body is happy striding through tall, swishy, drying grass. Body enjoys the sun on its back, removing the layer of wool needed in our cool valley below. Body soaks in the birdsong and the kissing breeze. Body appreciates the curve and swell of the land, the shape of it under foot, the way a path, a way to go, is naturally found or made by the sweep of topography.
Rounding the base of a knoll, I know where I am going, where I’m headed, and already the walk feels at an end, because of this. Already mind is plotting what will be done on its return. But as we cross the field, up ahead a still figure is seen.
Heron. Tall, lanky, oddly bulky in places. Very, very still. And right in the middle of our path, our way to go. We could go straight on and heron would shift out of our way, possibly missing the meal it is focused on getting. But that’s not my way. It is one of my pet hates to observe the arrogance of humans walking along a long, wide stretch of beach and who plunge straight at a group of seabirds, sending them up into the air, out of their well-earned rest, when all they need do is veer a little towards the dunes at a healthy distance away from them, and pass right by with no need to startle anyone at all.
So I ponder the alternatives. We could turn back, it was a nice walk, no reason not to enjoy it again backwards. Or we could make a smaller loop and vary the walk a little but still in essence be turning back. Or … I find myself kneeling on the ground. Eyes take in the ruddy, purply-red tips of grasses and weeds that have been touched by frost, almost ruby-ish in contrast to the finer golden winter grasses. The grass is dry. For the first time in ever such a long time, I am on a walk and the grass is dry. It beckons to me. I lay down.
Ahhh. Sun. Wind. Grass. Insects chirping. A car drones by somewhere beyond sight. Dogs pant. Sun. Air. Ground beneath my body.
Body lays there a long time, it feels. Mind loosens its white-knuckled grip a little. The fingers of the sun prying open the gaps in this being, making windows for the light to come in. I want to be one big window. I want to be all gap. All light. The wanting is another tightening of mind-grip. Body knows this. Sun seems to know this, too. Maybe even Heron knows this, somehow.
It was Heron who told me to stop, anyway. So I did. If only for a while.