It was a glorious sunny Sunday and I didn’t want to waste it so I decided to go for a walk. The Scheveningse Bosjes woods are at the top of my street and I walk there often, always in an anticlockwise direction. What is that? Why do I always walk that way round anywhere I go? Weird, right?
I usually walk on the left side of the street because that’s the side our house is on, but today, because the sun was shining I decided to walk on the sunny side, the right, for the first time. Still anticlockwise, mind you. To go in the other direction may have been a step too far!
And you know, that simple change made all the difference. Towards the top of the hill, about a hundred yards before I would normally go into the woods, I spotted a track I had never seen before and so I took it. After a few minutes I noticed a furrow in the somewhat leafy, muddy slope rising to the right and I took that too. To my surprise, just over the brown of the incline was a graveyard I had no idea was there. From that moment I decided I would take every ‘road less traveled’ that I came across just to see where it took me. It wasn’t as brave as you might think, because I live in a city and a recognizable road would never be more than five minutes’ walk away. So, cushioned by the knowledge that it was impossible to get lost, I stuck to my plan.
I have a good sense of direction and kind of knew I was never far from my usual anticlockwise route but this time I would endeavor to choose new paths and tracks rather than trodden every time I was presented with a choice.
From that moment I began to realise that my world was opening up. I began to see and hear things I never normally paid attention to. I walked beside a canal I had cycled past many times but as a pedestrian I noticed the rudimentary, rickety steps many had built so they could reach the water easily from the backs of their grand Victorian villas. I noticed a path leading into a part of the wood they called Belvedere. I must have walked past this exact same spot many times, albeit from a different direction, but this was the first time I noticed that sign. Of course I went in, picking the roughest tracks rather than the tarmacked paths. There, almost blocking my route was a dinosaur! Some wit had carved a fallen tree trunk so it looked like the face of a dinosaur.
Along my walk, I looked around me carefully, to the sides as well as up down. I watched the seagulls walking on the ice on the lake, looked more closely at the hundreds of flowers that had been laid beside the war memorial. When I looked down at the beige carpet of leaf litter I recognised it was too easy to disregard it, thinking it no longer necessary, after all, it was called ‘litter’. But then I realised that its purpose was by no means over, it would now be absorbed back into the earth to feed the flora that would come in spring. It’s winter now and knowing the trees would be bare, I didn’t normally bother to look up, but today I noticed how the tops of the trees seemed to uplit and there was bright green lichen and buttery light on the naked branches.
So why am I telling you about my silly Sunday afternoon walk? Because, you see, with every step I was bombarded by metaphors and messages that felt like treasure. As I walked I foraged for thoughts that I would bring home and turn into a blog for you.
The Seven Wonders of a Sunday Woodland Walk
- We don’t have to change our lives entirely to get a new perspective om things. Sometimes all it takes is to try walking on the other side of the street.
- Taking a new path can often seem scary, not more change, we think, but if you try something new, safe in the knowledge that you are protected from making a really big mistake, then perhaps it is worth the risk.
- It is hard to be mindful when we are doing something we have done a thousand times before, so switch things up a little and you may notice so much more.
- Use your instinct. It is usually right.
- We don’t always have to go far from home to have an adventure.
- Looking back, or down, all the time, may seem like negative behavior. We know it is not always healthy to dwell on the past, but don’t forget that in the past you will find the things that made us who we are today and who we will become in the future.
- Never forget to look up, and forward, because, quite simply, that is where the light is.