I love walking my local cycle path. It’s the same 400m of track, the same trees, fences, railway bridge, railings and houses, but there’s always something new going on.
I’ve found cats hunting in the long grass, squirrels scrambling up trees and a terror of tots in crash helmets tearing the place up on tiny pink micro-scooters.
Someone dopplers past me every day, reggae blaring, as he slaloms along with a Bluetooth speaker turned up to 11.
On a few occasions, I’ve come across someone practising their golf swing with great enthusiasm, pink baseball cap luminous in the spring sun.
Grafitti has come and gone. Posters have popped up announcing lost dogs and cats. Some were adorned with, ‘FOUND! Safe and well’ in black sharpie a week later.
Some simply flapped in the wind and disappeared.
I’ve witnessed nannies cycling kids to school in a giant basket on the front of a robust cargo bike, children gleaming excitedly from their mobile bathtub like excitable puppies.
For a time, there was a giant puddle that the kids called the ‘ocean’. Then the footpath was resurfaced, converting it into a beautiful flowerbed with proper drainage.
I walked the path that week with the scent of fresh tarmac in my nostrils and a sense of sadness that the world’s largest puddle was gone.
There’s always something going on. The seasons and the weather add to the infinite changeability of the space. It’s a fresh experience every time.
The bike track is like a river in this respect. There’s always new activity in a highly familiar channel.
I’ve been reading a brilliant book by Henry David Thoreau over the past few weeks.
Thoreau was an American nineteenth-century philosopher who wrote a book about a trip he took along the Concord and Merrimack Rivers in 1839.
The book includes philosophical musings, sprinkled in and amongst Thoreau’s reflections on the rivers themselves: their geography, history, resident birds and fish.
In the book, he talks about how people are like rivers:
A [person’s] life should be constantly as fresh as this river. It should be the same channel, but a new water every instant.
He goes on to say:
Most [people] have no inclination, no rapids, no cascades, but marshes, and alligators, and miasma instead.
Love marshes and alligators! But what is ‘miasma’?
My friend Clare looked it up for me. According to the Ancient Greeks, it’s a bad smell that can only be removed by sacrificing the body of the person who suffers from it.
Imagine being born in a time with a sacrificial approach to body odour and no deodorant!
I’ve been thinking about how people like Clare are indeed like rivers. The same channel, with new water every instant.
These people are determined, optimistic and brave. Some are fast-flowing rivers, others are slow and thoughtful.
Their curiosity makes them fascinating to talk to. And just as you can never step in the same river twice (Heraclitus), these people are different, whilst the same, every day.
“I can’t go back to yesterday because I was a different person then.” - Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
How to stay fresh
So how to stay fresh? It has something to do with positivity and optimism. The people who are like rivers, ‘a new water every instant’, are too busy being curious to complain!
When they have a complaint, they make a swift decision: deal with it, or let it go. The world is full of wonder and they have things they want to explore and get on with.
The brilliant poet Maya Angelou had a thing or two to say about complaining:
'“Sister, there are people who went to sleep all over the world last night, poor and rich and white and black, but they will never wake again.
Sister, those who expected to rise did not, their beds became their cooling boards, and their blankets became their winding sheets.
And those dead folks would give anything, anything at all for just five minutes of this weather or ten minutes of that plowing that person was grumbling about.
So you watch yourself about complaining, Sister. What you're supposed to do when you don't like a thing is change it.
If you can't change it, change the way you think about it. Don't complain.”
- Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou had a really gosh-darned POSITIVE approach to the world.
Not everyone would give anything for five minutes of this weather (not in May, in any case) or ten minutes of plowing. Some of us go through life not wanting to engage with any of it. I have been there myself, on many occasions.
One of my favourite writers in the world, Heather Havrilesky, addressed this in her recent column recommending exuberance:
“If you don’t break your habit of experiencing each day as a series of things to avoid or get through, the future will look just like the past: Your brain will still be torturing you the whole time.
And if you’re an oversensitive, overwhelmed, overworked, overthinking overachiever in particular, you’re definitely going to need a more vivid and compelling way of understanding yourself, your day, and your future.”
- Heather Havrilesky
The way I choose to understand myself, my day and my future is one day at a time. Particularly at the moment.
I’ve been recording a daily walking podcast since November. It’s been a fantastic, regular reminder to pay attention to what’s directly in front of me. To enjoy this day.
I’ve explored uncertainty, shame and guilt, and I’m excited to be embarking on series 13 of the podcast, in which I’m hoping to explore wonder, solitude and no doubt something else that hasn’t occurred to me yet.
If you’re interested in developing a habit of mindfulness and walking in nature - this is the pod for you! Have a listen to episode 1 of the new series:
Each podcast is just 10 minutes long, so it’s a great accompaniment to lacing up your trainers and getting out of the front door.
(And if you want some really excellent laces for your trainers, I highly recommend getting some LGBTQIA+ ones from Stonewall. Rainbow laces day is December 9, but I see no reason not to wear them all year round.)
Subscribe to Walk the Pod here!
If you like to support your favourite podcasts/creators, I have built a patreon page.
It would mean so much to me if you would become one of my first patrons. Plus, you will receive a BEAUTIFUL vinyl sticker to put on your face*.
If you’re not a walker, the podcast is GREAT for listening to in your kitchen, with a nice cup of tea ☕ it’s just like inviting me round for a chat. If you would like to get a word in edgeways, you can leave me a voice message!
Do let me know what you’re up to, how you’re feeling and what you’re thinking about today. You can hit ‘reply’ to this email. I read everything and it makes my day every time I get a message from one of the ‘Poddies’!
I hope you are speaking kindly to yourself and have something fun planned today.
Take care, lots of love,
*maybe put it on your laptop 😁
Other things you might enjoy
Towel day 2021
For those of you who are fans of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Towel day is coming.
Towel Day is celebrated every year on 25 May as a tribute to the author Douglas Adams. On this day, fans openly carry a towel with them, as described in Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, to demonstrate their appreciation for the books and Douglas himself.
“A towel, [The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy] says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapors; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-boggingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can't see it, it can't see you); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.” - Douglas Adams in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
For a few years now, I’ve been running a comedy gig on Towel Day with a bunch of comedians, to celebrate H2G2 in all its glory. After a long day towel carrying, Douglas fans are invited to relax with a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster (the “Best Drink in Existence) and watch some homages to their favourite book.
This year, Save the Rhino International are hosting a ‘Best of’ Stand Up for Towel Day, and you can be there! Tickets are available via this link.
On Tuesday, producer Nell and I met to record my links for the show. It was so good to be with another human to drink tea, eat biscuits and work on a creative project together, after all this time alone.
I’ve been hugely encouraged in my efforts to raise money for rhino conservation by this article, ‘The Miracle of the Commons.’
Save the Rhino International have been raising money for rhino conservation for over 25 years and there’s still so much to do to help the 5 species of rhino survive the current poaching crisis.
I’m proud to raise money for them every year as we celebrate the genius that was the ape-descended life-form, Douglas Adams.
A newsletter on the creative process
I enjoyed this newsletter on the creative process by songwriter, Isaac Valentin. He writes all manner of ‘stuff’ in his notebook, then when he feels he has enough, makes the switch to typewriter.
Once it’s typed up, he leaves it alone, ‘in order to have some feeling of discovery when it was performed.’
Very into this idea.
A few more articles: on self-compassion, and how to be excellent