Comfortably Numb

Sheila Kumar's Storehouse

Published on: 09/24/23 4:48 AM

Column: Let`s reset for the journey rather than the destination


Let`s reset for the journey rather than the destination

This is my ode to the paths we take to reach someplace.

Let`s face it, most times it`s all about reaching rather than relishing the journey. We stride on our paths, gathering speed, sidestep what we perceive to be obstacles,  and are relieved when we catch sight of our destination. The path is just the means to an end, and easily forgotten. Or is it, really?

I remember a path up a modest-sized hill in Windermere, in England`s lovely Lake District. It was a winding path, hedged with thickets of maidenhair fern and bracken, oak and elm trees. Occasionally, the area would open into a meadow filled with yellow and pink wildflowers. Once I passed a sturdy horse grazing peacefully; we both paused and looked at each other impassively for some moments. Elsewhere, there was a sleek yellow convertible with a tortoiseshell cat sleeping on its roof.

Further on, I came across an ancient tree, its sturdy trunk curved back to 45 degrees and studded with old coins, apparently an old country custom. There was a gorgeous play of shifting sunlight all around, now sharp, now mellow. And right at the top, once I`d crossed the wooden stile and stepped out on a grassy verge, there lay a panorama before me: the Fells in the not too far distance, the silver swathe of the meandering Lake Windermere down below, and wooden benches to sit on and take in the stunning sight.

It`s funny, but memories of that vista have faded away with time. Memories of the path leading up the hill remain sharp and sound.

I remember another path through a deep forest in the Nilgiris, where the tree-growth was so dense in parts that no sunlight dappled down. Some of the trees were festooned with avaricious creepers that looked to be  strangling the hosts. The eucalyptus, ubiquitous to the Nilgiris, shed its leaves generously,  so that the track  was hedged with large piles of yellowing leaves. This road stayed cool silent and dark, then suddenly opened out to bright sunlight, the  brick chimney of a tea factory and Sleeping Beauty, the area`s most recognizable peak, sprawled in her abandoned fashion on the near horizon. The stepping into bright sunlight brought an immediate lifting of the spirits. Here too, the path was somehow more rewarding than its end destination.

Nature flaneurs

It`s the old stop-to-smell-the-roses syndrome. The walker who deliberately slows their pace, looks keenly about them, palpably appreciates what they see, is the genuine nature-flaneur for whom the act of walking is an enriching, calming, deeply satisfying pilgrimage. If we stop to take in everything the path offers, the journey takes on a meaning of its own, with life lessons that will stand us in good stead.

Robert Macfarlane in his marvellous  book The Old Ways quotes  an old Spanish saying: to walk is to gather treasures. I`d like to add to that by saying that the `noticers,`  those who take in every little detail on those paths, reap rich dividends from the paths they walk.

Living as we do in the Age of Haste, we need to consciously make time for rambles once in a while, whenever we can, wherever we can.

It really doesn’t take too much effort to switch from being a non-walker to a walker, then to a noticer-walker. The rewards will reveal themselves soon, calming us down, bringing peace of mind and spurts of happiness with it.   What more motivation do we need?

This ran in the Sunday Express Magazine of 24 September 2023.

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columnnature flaneurspeace of mindSunday Express magazinethe notcier walkersthe path not the destinationTNIE

Sheila Kumar • September 24, 2023

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