Sunday, 9 June 2013

What It's All About

A journey is made rich by the experiences we have along the way.

When I go walking, it's always the people I meet, who are strangers 99% of the time, that give it depth and colour.

I enjoy meeting new people at the best of times, but there is something unique and hugely rewarding about conversing with these new faces whilst out walking. Straight away it feels like we have something in common; something that can remain unspoken; something that can only be experienced when out trekking. Because of this unspoken, yet not at all unknown bond, first impressions are usually made up of a smile, a nod, a simple greeting and sometimes a whole conversation may develop.

This is what happened to me yesterday.

I had just entered the gaping mouth of the woodlands, and noticed a man looking up at a tree, standing quite Poirot-like with his hands behind his back.

He didn't have a backpack on, nor was he dressed in outdoor gear. His attire simply consisted of blue jeans, navy blue t-shirt and white trainers.

As I got closer, the snapped branch underfoot got his attention. He smiled at me and continued his walk in my direction.

'This is what it's about,' he said. 'This is what it's all about.'

When something like that is said whilst standing in nature, you don't need to question the meaning. In fact, if you truly understand what has been said, and if the person who said it meant it, silence will surely follow.

And it did.

Two strangers sharing the experience of stillness.

We listened.

We looked.


'I don't understand,' he said after a moment or two, 'how people can be cooped up inside. They're stagnating. They're wasting away. They don't know what they're missing when they're sat in front of their TVs and computers. This is why obesity is on the rise. This is nature's gym! And it's free!'

He was right, of course.

Walking in nature isn't just good for you physically, it's also good for you mentally. It alleviates stress and depression. It calms the mind, producing inner space. It boosts creativity and lifts the spirit. After a brief look on the net; studies from 2010 showed that 25%  of obese people are diagnosed with depression.

'People would be generally happier if they spent more time outside doing an activity like walking, than inside doing something like browsing the internet and watching soaps,' said my new friend.

I told him that I have a TV but it doesn't have an aerial, and he smiled.

'I enjoy Springwatch,' he said, looking almost as excited as a child does on Christmas morning. 'I never miss an episode. Now . . . you might not have a TV, but I don't have a computer.'

He began to tell me about how he had recently changed cable companies. 'They gave me something to connect to the internet and then insisted that I plug it in. I told them I didn't have a computer but they didn't understand. They told me to go to their site - this .com that .com - stuff your .com, I said!'

He instantly looked like a rebellious child. 'I can't be bothered with it. You know, even if more people did go for walks, they wouldn't see a thing because their eyes would be glued to their phones and their ears would be only alert to the next text message.'

It's sad, but I think he's right.

I just hope that in time peoples' gaze will rise from their phones, computers and TVs - just once in a while for them to see what it's all about.

There is an unfathomable amount to see - and I don't mean within the TV guide.

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