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Essay: The Joy of Walking …

I’m beginning to think we; collectively are losing the plot …Time to chill out a tad …

Essay: There’s a Whole World Out There! or The Joy Of Walking.

I now have no car. That statement in itself may require an explanation in these self-commuting times. But no … too tangled and tiresome a story, sufficient to state that the reason reaches back into the mists of time to when I once committed myself with a vow of: “I will”. And speaking of another thing that has ended, I feel I can state quite categorically (as an observant walker) and declare it official that the daisy bush has replaced the geranium as the stalwart mainstay of verdant flowering flora in the suburban front garden! The long-lashed cheeky button flower of the daisy, has edged the precocious petals of the geranium off centre-stage. I suppose in this age of “go-get-‘em” attitude and “in-your-face” aggressiveness the battling geranium could hardly match the many blossomed, fast growing daisy-bush might … is now right!

I notice these small things on my walks into the town where I live. Hybrid roses too have muscled-in on a place next to the footpath, all bright and starry-eyed like the budding stars they are, their many-hued blooms huge and alluring to the passer-by although I myself, religiously adhering to the adage: “Always take time to smell the flowers”, find little delight in discovering so scant a scent in such wonderful blossoms … and I feel a little cheated, like false advertising that encourages false expectations, for surely, if there is any flower that looks delicious enough to kiss, it is the rose … and like any kiss, a fellah needs to take away with him an exotic, lingering scent of delight to caress and steel him against all the crassness of the outside world and … but I think I have made my disappointment plain … the hybrid rose, without its scent is, to this man at least, as a woman without mystery!

It is Summer where I live and the fruit trees are bearing wonderfully! None more so than the cherry-plums along the railway track that I cut across on my way into town. For some reason these delicious trees are shunned by the public and much of the fruit is left to fall and rot on the ground. Bearing no such animosity to this sweet harvest, I make feast on their berries! … These, and plums galore accompany the walker on his journey and I make note the fruit of the nectarine tree leaning precariously over the corrugated iron fence of “Such and Such Ltd … motor repairs” is deepening its crimson blush and fattening itself up for the pickings not long now!

A Serbian I once worked with told me of the struggle against hunger in his youth after the 2nd WW, and how he made it his business to note when every fruit tree, every vine in every back-yard or lot in his village was ready to be raided! such are the necessities of survival … In Australia where we take such things for granted, it is one more joy to be embraced on my walks.

Another thing I have noticed, although it has fallen out of fashion with the onset of “Estate Housing” is the front fence. The front fence is one of the last and lasting expressions of individuality in a world of shrinking imaginations.

In Australia, indeed, the world! … the front fence like certain hobbies, was open slather to any fetish of taste or tastelessness. I have seen them constructed of everything from shells to bits of ironmongery and even bones … “TAKE THAT!” was the creed for some of the monstrosities separating the incumbent from the innocents in the outside world … From bits of off-cut wood to animal bones and noduled limestone rocks! and what was the flower that inevitably graced these icons and filled the gaps in the masonry? … The geranium! Alas, it is gone now, as is that generation of front fence builders that, although predictable in all other mannerisms pertaining to suburban life, could be counted upon to equal or maliciously out do the neighbour in design or complexity the Bastille like structure of the front fence and gone also, is the geranium … alas, alas!

Windmills, simple in structure were a regular feature of front gardens, but these too have been replaced by more complex: “paddling duck” or “rowing men” and even by mass produced “cupid” bird-baths. Some of the more bombastic citizens plant spread-winged eagles gargoyled on top of gate-pillars which gaze threateningly down on the walker as he moves past. I remember seeing a young woman innocently walk past a live wedge-tailed eagle perched on a fence at eye level next to the footpath. Obviously a pet of the house there … I was watching from a train at a station. As the woman drew abreast of the bird, she turned her head toward it (there is an impish spirit that provokes these actions!). I presume she didn’t expect to see such a large creature a foot or so from her face, the sudden leap to the centre of the road was Olympian to say the least! and when her knees buckled under her, I thought she was going down for prayers on the bitumen! but no, she as swiftly regained her composure and with only a few deft pats of adjustments to her bobbed hair, promptly moved on … against such nerves of steel, the male of the species has no chance … though to this day I don’t know if it was the bird that screeched or the woman.

I keep a small box at home in which I place all the “treasures” gleaned from the roads when I walk. There are shiny (I prefer them to be shiny!) bolts and hose-clamps, a squash-ball, a mobile phone, spanners and other miscellaneous objects, some unidentifiable but interesting … what few coins I find I spend.

The gutters and the shrubs are receptacles for all the detritus of mankind. Bits and pieces that fall off cars end up scarred and scraped into the kerbside gutters. Drink containers and waste paper end up stuffed, like bodies up chimneys in Poe’s: “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”, into any nook or kicked under bushes. At nesting time any excess chicks forced or pushed out of nests end up little mounds of fluff on the footpath or flattened on the roads. I can’t help but feel pity for these helpless chicks. who don’t even get a start in life before it is brutally taken from them. But then, what animal in the wild ( even domestic) does not meet with a violent end? Though once, when a flock of starlings flew over me, I saw one fall, for no apparent reason, out of the flock almost to my feet, dead as a doornail … heart attack? old age? who knows, but it was only once that I saw that.

Walking can be very educational, peaceful and fulfilling. One’s thoughts fall into the rhythm of the step and rare is the worry or problem that cannot be resolved in oneself in the space of a good long walk. The relaxing contrasts of sunlight and shade, water sprinkler and breeze, the chlorophyll’d odour of fresh-cut lawn near the lake, the idle paddling of the ducks mixed with the joyful cries of children at play lend a certain visceral ambience to the atmosphere of the clinging world around us that we call life!

Ah! The joy of walking …


11 comments

  1. Joseph Carli

    This was a reflection was written at the end of my first marriage…a fair while ago…but the sentiments are the same..

  2. Fethon

    What a great article! We need reminders like this occasionally to pull us out of the daily rut!

  3. Andrew J. Smith

    Me too no car, also concerned how many who (over) use cars have neither interaction with or experience of their own local community.

  4. Bruce Winchester

    Just recently I have taken up the habit of wandering along the sands of less popular and populated Sydney beaches near where I live and have rediscovered the joys of walking that I had forgotten from younger days of keen bushwalking.
    I can only do this once a week, Sunday, but as I trek through the sand, its only me and the sky, sea, cliffs and the constant energy of the sea. The mundane troubles of life and work evaporate.
    Long forgotten thoughts, ideas, memories, reveries stream through my head as I study the horizon, contemplate the age of headlands, the immense volume of sand (how long does it take to make this much bloody sand?) and of course the ceaseless ocean.
    There are ‘treasures’, oddly shaped sea shells sculpted by erosion, abandoned sand castles crumbling and melting with the rising tide, the rarer interaction with gulls and a sea eagle (just once) I avoid interacting with other walkers. This is a time for contemplation, relaxation, quiet refection.
    Godless, I confess, my weekly beach walkabout is now my church.
    The Kooris were right. Walkabouts should be a part of everyone’s life.

  5. Joseph Carli

    ” The Kooris were right. Walkabouts should be a part of everyone’s life.”…too right, Bruce…too bloody right!…

  6. helvityni

    Walking has always been a big part of my life, so this morning when I had started watching Insiders my JR decided to take me for a ‘stop and go’ walk…sniff here, scratch there…

    So much better than watching the drivel on our ABC about Emma’s flashings, did she ,or did she not…how bloody embarrassing….

  7. Joseph Carli

    Here..a cameo..a bit of Sunday amusement…(I hope I haven’t posted it before…forgive me if I have..put it down to a rising senility!)

    Jasper.
    Jasper was a “Balt’ ”..ie; he was of those states centered around the Baltic Sea..perhaps he could have been Estonian…he was a tall ponderous sort of chap…with a long serious gaze, with one of those what are called “lantern jawed” faces. He always spoke in a slow , carefully chosen word way..I don’t wonder many philosophers came from the Baltic States..Jasper appeared to put a lot of thought into what he said before he said it…but then he didn’t ever say much of great import.

    “You gotta watch those ‘Balts’ “ Jack Mitchell warned..’Ooo..they’re trouble..those bloody Balts”.

    He always wore shorts in the summer..not short shorts like a footballer, but loose baggy ones to the knee. He would sit at the bar pint in hand with legs crossed in a peculiar effeminate way..that is; with his legs entwined like women do…and he would stare incessantly at one person or spot before delivering some profound statement.

    “Michael”..he announced out of the blue one day “Michael..would you tell your girlfriend to stop staring at my legs…I know I haff good, manly legs…but could she please not to stare at them so ?”

    Of course , Mick was astonished and choked on his beer…Tracey, Mick’s girlfriend, was outraged and put on one hell of a show…Jasper was nonplussed by the whole affair and just commenced to roll a cigarette with his slow ponderous methodology.

    Jasper had huge hands…big fingers more suited to blacksmithing or a farrier for draught horses than what he did do…but no-one knew quite what that was as he was an awful liar. Jasper’s toil at rolling a cigarette was something to watch..he was so clumsy with those big hands that it was quite a chore that exasperated him at times.

    One day a “airy” young lady sitting next to him at the bar took out of her dilly-bag one of those automatic cigarette rollers where you place the paper then the tobacco, then lift or flip the lid and a perfectly formed “rolly” appears to greet you. Jasper, ciggy-paper stuck to his bottom lip watched this magic with deep concentration, his big paw all the while shoved deep into the pouch of tobacco…as he watched, the ciggy-paper fluttered with his breath on his lip…he detached it and addressed the young lady.

    “That is a cleffer machine…a vonderful machine …where did you obtain it?” he asked in his slow deep voice.

    “Well I didn’t steal it if that’s what you mean?’ The young woman replied.

    “ I vas not accusing you, madam…you look like a honest young lady..an honest AND attractive young lady…perhaps later I would like to get to know you in a more familiar way..I like you..and I like your machine..I am asking where you haff purchased it”…

    The following week, Jasper was seen to have one of those machines ..it would sit at his elbow on the bar next to his pouch of “Drum” tobacco…Jasper now had a contented look on his face, and he would gladly demonstrate the marvels of that machine to anyone who asked..and many would take advantage of his hospitality of the proffered resulting cigarette until he woke up to the fact that he was being taken for a ride…philosophers are like that, they learn fast!

    Jasper disappeared out of our lives as quickly as he appeared..Late one night he asked Mick for a lift home on the back of his 1000cc. Suzuki motor-cycle…Mick delighted in putting the fear of god in anyone silly enough to ride pillion with him..Jasper had no sooner settled himself on the trembling machine and informed Mick to drive carefully as he, Jasper, was…and that was the last we heard of Jasper as Mick took off full-throttle and it was impossible to tell if it was the roar of the motor, the squeal of the tyre or the Joe. E. Brown howl of despair from Jasper as they disappeared down Yakka Road toward Sth. Brighton.

    But he never came back.

  8. wam

    my darling is a walker she begins the family’s day with viber pictures of her adventures. She finds people on the path, an old chinese lady with no english, on the jetty fishing a FIFO mcarthur river and on the verandah an old greek who rushed down this morning ‘where you been’ no see for a week we were worried you been sick? She finds things lots of 5c pieces and today an expensive tee which was fortuitous in that I lost my 50c tee and tuesday is my golf day.
    I walk the pool 8 circuits anticlockwise then 10 clockwise and the 2 anti giving me some uphill walking ending with 5 minutes aerobic with foam dumbbells. I find many things I should say but forget them in the cold shower after the exercise.
    The balts are mad. Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia students came in my years at high school. They were usually good students. One was given a scooter for his 16th and at holden’s corner of the port road a truck ran over him.
    We were asked by the hockey coach to go to the funeral in our state blazers, my conservative mate chickened out and left me and hank to go. It was the most traumatic experience of my life. Funerals were sombre quiet affairs, with an occasional sniff and handkerchief dabbing. But not this funeral it was a frightening outpouring of grief.

  9. johno

    Walking is awesome. As I have more and more time I just want to walk more and more. Over dale, paddock and bushland, free as a bird.

  10. helvityni

    wam, the Balts are NOT mad.

  11. wam

    sorry, Helvityni, that ‘mad’ is a term of endearment, along the lines of active, brave and adventurous. Our lab assistant was a professor of maths in riga and he was a great source of help with maths. In the early 50s, many students and teachers came from latvia, estonia and lithuania. They so openly enjoyed being in Adelaide.
    I have only known one of your countrymen he was in hospital with me in 72 and he could swallow the beer. A lovely man who drove trucks in Nhulunbuy but he lost a foot when a load slipped from the sling when loading. Awful but he was back driving before I got out of hospital. I only had a patella extrusion but it went wrong.and frightened me so much I waited till 2015 to get it fixed.

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