Featured image: A cup of hot chocolate after lunch at Trenance Chocolate cafe and factory at Mullion during Monday’s glorious walk along the south (English Channel) coast. Still taste it.
Cogitation 13/191 Saturday 30 March 2019 Let’s turn “inside,” “outside.”
Normally, leaving home, office or school means going to another indoor destination. The objective is to get from one point to another with the least interference.
Now, consider what happens when one turns that common understanding on its head. What happens when one makes “outside” the destination and “inside” the transitional space. When “outside” becomes one’s living space.
Walk. Bike. Swim. Picnic. Garden. Sit in the sun. Outdoors becomes the primary realm. The new home of purpose, activity, happiness, security, the “proper” place to be.
French writer Frederic Gros engages the idea in A Philosophy of Walking (translated by John Howe, 2014, 2015). What he said about walks that extend over several days can be applied to other ways of making the most of outdoors.
In a short chapter, “Outside,” Gros wrote: “In walks that extend over several days, during major expeditions, everything is inverted. ‘Outside’ is no longer a transition, but the element in which stability exists.”
Gros wrote that by living in a landscape for several days he slowly took possession of it. “Then that strange morning impression can arise, when you have left the walls of rest behind you, and find yourself with the wind in your face, right in the middle of the world: this is really my home all day long, this is where I am going to dwell by walking.” (We can add gardening, working or other outside activity to the list).
Gros’ thought clicks with my experience. Fifty years ago I thought people who were enthusiasts for long distance walking were, well, a bit too enthusiastic, if not a bit daft. They talked about difficult parts of the trail, special boots, blazes, thirst, challenges of getting right-of-way permissions, on and on.
One friend back then was a member of the fledgling Bruce Trail Association in Ontario, Canada. The group had a dream and determination to create a trail along the Niagara Escarpment from Queenston Heights near Niagara Falls to Tobermory on Georgian Bay.
Long and short, years later, Marty and I became members of the Bruce Trail Association and over seven years, a week and some weekends at time, earned our end-to-end badges. The trail is 895 kilometers (556 miles) long. It follows the Niagara Escarpment, one of 13 UNESCO World Biospheres in Canada.
We have siblings and their spouses to thank for spearheading those memory-rich expeditions. Mark and Christa planned the logistics. Sandy and Joy secured our first cabin on the Bruce Peninsula and provided “ferry” service to or from daily starting points. Kaye and Murray joined us on several sections close to their home. Another couple joined us over several weeks.
Each couple took turns preparing the evening meal. Christa took care of breakfast and lunch menus. Mark and Marty did the daily homework of recording place and distance covered. I summarized with photos.
During our first week-long walk in 2000 we stayed in a cabin on Parker Island on Lake Huron. Each evening we would walk a short distance to watch the sun sizzle into the lake. One night I was so stiff and tired that I managed to get only halfway to the lake edge. I toasted the setting sun and promptly went to bed; rising in the morning totally refreshed and ready for another day’s venture.
In 2007 we stepped across the finish line. Hallelujah! The walk ended at an historic rural homestead. From there we planned to take all participants to a nearby English cafe for a celebratory lunch. Surprise, shock, “you didn’t,” we were ambushed by well-wishers.
We were met by all siblings and spouses. Out came table cloths to cover picnic tables. Out came china dinnerware, including my sister’s Limoges china for the cheesecake dessert. Out came food and drink fit for a royal feast. In high spirits we commemorated persistence, adventure, achievement, companionship, connectedness, contact with nature, love, an out-of-doors dream come true. We had taken possession of the trail over the years, it of us.
The magic goes on
The magic that comes from walking in the great outdoors again surfaced this week. Friends Steve and Marilyn took us on a day trip to the Lizard part of south Cornwall, along the English Channel.
You’ll see a marker below in tribute to Guglielmo Marconi. In 1901, from this site, Marconi sent the first wireless transmission, aimed at St John’s, Newfoundland, more than 2,000 miles (3,240 km) away. It was received almost immediately. The aerial at St John’s had been attached to a kite.
We did a four-mile walk with 23 other members of the West Cornwall Footpaths Preservation Society, starting at and ending at St Erth.
We walked around Carbis Bay, through the village and outlying farms, with a stop for lunch.
We walked the field path to Zennor where we met Lynne and daughter Kate, on her day off from her job as hospital specialist pharmacy technician, and walked back to Lynne’s vehicle parked a mile or so away, for the trip home. It was truly living it up outdoors.
On Friday we helped pick daffodils for Mothering Sunday. The daffodil crop had matured early and so the picking was pretty selective, limited to those late variety stems that had just started to open up.
Thoughts on going out
- “I only went our for a walk today and finally concluded to stay out until sundown. For going out, I found, was really going in.” John Muir
- “Go out into the world today and love the people you meet. Let your presence light new light in the hearts of people>” Mother Teresa
- “I’m going to stand outside, so if anyone asks I am outstanding.” Poster with a frog
- “The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature.” Anne Frank
- Keep Calm and Go Out–On a Limb
- When I go out for a walk I take in the beauty, sound, silence, fresh air, past and present all around me. I take pictures. I’ve made friends with mud, learned to respect wind and rain. My gain shows in the smile that crosses my face at the finish–and, yes, what awaits inside. John B
On the trails, I sometimes think about the stirring events in the world and how human actions are adversely or helpfully reshaping the earth. I think about the politics of past and present and wonder how elected leaders today could learn from the past and better deliver on their winning and use of power to govern society in the 21st century.
I’d love to see more of the art of government practiced in the interdependence of local, regional, national and international spheres. Pining for some idealized version of even the 20th century and earlier does not cut the mustard. I’d love to see leaders of all sorts get outside their offices of power and ingest the wonders of nature–and of themselves and each other–and meet the real world on common ground.
All about Bob
Bob Weighton celebrated his 111th birthday on 29 March. He lives in a retirement flat in Alton, Hampshire, still shopping and cooking for himself. Secret of longevity? On BBC Breakfast he said, he didn’t know, adding, “By avoiding dying.”
Mr Weighton, interviewed by Bart Mitchell of the Press Association, said, “I do not like the attention. I quite like meeting people I’ve never seen before, that’s one of my delights. I like meeting people who have been places and have some understanding of what it means to be human.”
The former teacher and engineer’s said Brexit was a “mess and a muddle.” He shares the distinction of England’s oldest man with Alfred Smith of St Madoes, Perthshire. The walker he uses to shop has a new identity plate: “Bob 111.” Happy Birthday, Bob!
A word of assurance from Psalm 121
“The Lord watches over you–the Lord is your shade at your right hand, the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm–he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and for evermore.”
I’m ready for a walk. Let’s go!