You will remember how I used to prattle about the suburban forest where I walked several times a week. Don’t pretend now. You remember perfectly well.
To refresh your memory, it was a wood that clung to the lower slopes of a hill. There was a little observatory here too. In the wood, I had my favourite trees that I always greeted – don’t judge me – and a log that I sat on as I switched off my mind and became one with the foliage. Or, failing that, I had a good think about what to have for my tea.
Now I have a new wood to waddle in, 40 acres of wonderful arboreality. The trees here, oaks an’ all, are ancient and huge. The lower slopes have a ruined castle, which is almost as good as an observatory, and in the summer the place positively pullulates with tourists.
But, out of season, I have the whole 40 acres almost to myself. As with the suburban hill, there are dog walkers in the lower parts, and it’s always pleasant to stop and have a yarn with them. Already, I’ve made several friends this way.
There are many paths around the woods, with occasional signposts (little reminders of civilisation that I find comforting), and some have steep sections that give the legs a good workout. The views from the top are stupendous, but my favourite place is further down, with not a log to sit on this time but a proper bench with a view of the sound to the mountains beyond.
I love to watch the endlessly shifting patterns of the sea, and I truly get a great feeling of contentment sitting here. It washes over me. Sometimes, it’s hard to rouse oneself to go out for a walk. It feels like the same old, and in a sense there’s nothing to do. But that’s precisely the beauty of it.
It doesn’t have the endless thrills of surfing the internet or reading Twitter (not that I’m on that, but you can get a nosey of what people are saying), but that’s the whole point. You stop prodding your brain with a sharp stick.
It then starts to have its own thoughts, original ideas and better perspectives, and the woods and the sea and the mountains and the breeze start to work on you. Somehow, it all calms you down and brings this feeling of contentment. I guess it’s because this is where, historically, we belong. Not in front of a screen.
Usually, a robin will stop by. Other birds flitter across the path as you stravaig along. A deer will sometimes appear and look at you quizzically, before remembering to be startled and to leap aboot. It’s in its job description, whereas I suppose mine says: “Primary duties involving waddling hither and, if wearing the correct footwear, yon; plus sitting on a bench, looking glaikit and wondering what it’s all aboot.”
Of course, one of the joys of going oot is so that you can come back home, appreciating it more perhaps. It’s in the ancient Chinese book of wisdom, the Tao Te Ching: “Ye canne ken oot withoot kennin’ in. And ye canne ken in withoot kennin’ oot. Ken?” Oh, I ken, I ken. It all makes sense to me.