Walking is, in part, about not thinking. My body takes over and I am free to wonder and wander. There are boundaries that keep me safe. The pavement is not for cars, the red light will stop the bus. Those boundaries are gone and a walk now requires thoughts and analysis. There are cars to take into account but also cyclists, runners, and other pedestrians too.
Today I have been feeling down. It’s not an overwhelming feeling, more of a presence hovering inside of me. It’s balanced on a thin line, about to collapse at any moment, break, and take over me. I pause every now and again and think about that feeling, that line. I imagine it stretched just right and I will the thing on it to keep balancing. And it does.
I met J on the first week-end of February when we helped the local nature reserve volunteer group dig up saplings from the grass meadow. We hadn’t talk all that much. The work was solitary and she had to leave early. But we did figure out that we live in the same street. I knew her house by the cats surrounding it and the collection of teddy bears in the window.
I roll over in bed and grumble at the sharp repeated note in the air. Who is taking so long to disable their alarm on a Saturday morning? The note carries on, shrill and loud. I turn on my back and listen closer to identify the culprit. It is not an alarm. It is a bird. I smile at my own stupidity. Of course it is a bird.
It was exhausting to constantly calculate distances in my head, to stay fully alert to the world around me. I wanted to enjoy being back on the saddle. I wanted to feel the wind in my hair, the prickle of the early morning chill on my fingers. But I couldn’t let those sensations dominate.
I can’t remember the last time I shot this camera. Now that I hold it I wonder why. It fits beautifully in my hands, its weight a comforting presence in my grasp. I open the back to load a roll of film and for a moment I’m lost. Was it at the top or at the bottom that the empty spool should go? I have to open the manual on my phone to find an answer.
I apply hand sanitiser to the trolley handlebar, rub a drop more in my hands, step in line no further than the markings on the floor. I put on the face mask and enter in the shop at the guard’s order and try not to think about the stress rising in me.
There is this path leading out of the park that has been taunting me for over a week. I see it almost daily but have never wandered to it. It it narrow, less than two metres wide. Trees border its edges, protecting the brook below on one side. Fences keep houses secure on the other. I cannot see far along the path. It could widen into a vast field but a curve leaves everything to my imagination. And those days, I am unwilling to explore any path that is less than two metres wide.
I open my eyes and look at the sun. Its presence makes the days easier to bear. It is easy to get out, to lie in the grass, to wait for this to pass. But it is also a reminder of what I am missing out on, of what I have been waiting for. Easter should have been the first proper escapade of the year, as every year. My body rusted from winter cold, it would slowly awaken in the fields and lanes of the countryside, remembering the freedom that comes from longer, warmer days.
Later, I told my sister about our pancake breakfast over Skype. She told me about the apéritif she had had with the neighbour, a wall dividing them as they each sat in their gardens. They were beginning to cook lunch now, the barbecue warm she showed me the meat and vegetables that were about to be roasted. We carried on chatting about life at home with the children, the creative projects I’d been working on, and whatever else we could think about. My nephew asked when I would be coming to visit, a question he asked relentlessly.