The idea of living in alignment with the inner self is something that’s embodied in many of my rhymes and poems. I think that’s because it’s something I find hard to do. That’s not to say that I’m living a false life, rather there’s some part of me deep down inside (my highest self, for want of a better term), that knows the way she wants to live, yet the constraints of the world and my brain (many of my own making) keep me doing the same old things I’ve always done.
The other week I decided to mix it up. I’ve always fancied myself an outdoorsy type, and I do love being outdoors, but writing and housework and all the other little things I allow myself to cling to in the vein of procrastination mean I don’t get out on long walks as often as I’d like. The other week I decided to throw off the shackles of drudgery and headed to the Peak District with my lovely dog.
There’s nothing like a change of scenery as a balm for the soul. I visited a place called Wyming Brook and the scenery was like something out of a Star Wars movie (think Endor not the Death Star). Moss covered tree trunks, babbling brooks, sunlight dancing through the canopy.
The light didn’t only shine through the trees: the day’s activities shone a clear light on the gaps between my inside and outside world. I may fancy myself a seasoned walker, I’ve got the boots and I do enjoy walking, but enjoying hiking and regularly engaging in the practice are two entirely separate things.
Finding the start of my planned route was the first hurdle. It turns out when google maps fails I’m pretty much lost! I drove past the same gentleman dutifully picking litter three times! Perhaps the Universe was trying to tell me to ask for directions, but I’d committed to doing this trip on my own and that’s exactly what I was going to do. Eventually I used my own eyes and a modicum of common sense and came out victorious, I found the car park.
The next hurdle was my growing urge to pee. I’d naively hoped there would be toilets at my destination, yet even when it was clear there were none and the me inside knew what had to be done, it took me until I was in quite some pain to find a suitable tree to crouch behind, before doing my best impression of Elsa as I let it go, sweet relief for me and one very bemused dog.
For my next challenge: the stepping-stones. The me in my head would have bounded across with confident abandon. The me in the world was a little more hesitant. All the signs said to ‘keep your dog on a lead,’ yet how was I to handle the stepping-stones over the stream with a straining beast in tow? After some deliberation (the old me probably would have turned back and gone a different way), I again allowed common sense to prevail and, throwing caution to the wind, I released the hound while we crossed the stream. She got blissfully sodden and I stayed mercifully dry, a win all round…until I found the bridge a few steps further down the path and had to reassess my appraisal of my common sense (I continue to live and learn).
The path was mostly solitary, but I did encounter a few friendly people for amiable chats. I find that being out in nature brings out the best in people, one of the reasons we should all do more of it when we can.
My favourite moment was sitting in quiet contemplation, listening to the wind rustling its way through the trees, taking in the smells of the forest floor. I love trees. I love watching them sway, I love the call and answer of the birds across the canopy, I even have room in my heart for the giant spider that made a daring leap from a tree to my shoulder. My internal self-scooped him up in my hand and laid him gently down, my external self put Ms Muffet to shame with a banshee shriek as I jumped a mile and shook him to the ground. Both my selves then dissolved into hysterical laughter. Still working on the giant spider love.
The end of the walk brought a sense of accomplishment. I’d found my way around the route (after first finding my way to the route), I’d embraced the outdoor toilet, I’d negotiated the stream and I returned home without a tree falling on me. I’m used to being at home on my own, in the car on my own, but I’m not so used to having adventures on my own. While I might not be as capable as the fearless hiker who exists in my head, I am perfectly capable of becoming that person, as long as I continue taking small steps in the direction I want to go. At the end of this journey it’s my hope I’ll have taken enough steps that I finally come face to face with my inner self. We’ll smile warmly, embrace like long lost friends and walk hand in hand into the distance.
What direction are you heading in?