I could feel a change, as a gentle wind blew through the reeds on the edge of the lake.
I looked out across the water and watched the paddlers become small on the horizon. They were the last, and my job as a guide was coming to a silent end.
The country was about to use its natural moat and our island continent would once again return to the natural isolation it has known for countless millennia. Travellers were fleeing and we were pulling up the drawbridge.
I turned and walked back towards the shore, deep in thought. It was almost a year ago and I remember saying. “I just want things to stop”. “I want the world to stop, just for a while so I can bloody catch up”. It stopped alright, quicker than anyone could have expected.
And on that last day I walked up from the lake’s edge and got into my car I drove a little slower. The tightness in my stomach had gone. The mob of kangaroos I drove past ate grass and looked up at me. As I looked back I thought how nature really needed this. The plants, the animals will all benefit from our absence.
We are too many and we have been too greedy. Far too many people living on top of each other, or maybe just outright stupidity. I don’t know, but this slowness got me thinking of things I used to do.
I’d run through the bush trails. I’d hurriedly scramble mountains and look at my watch for some form of acknowledgment. Basically, I’d rush through life and the things I most enjoyed.
Now I’ve started hiking again. It is simplicity without pretence. Everything you require is on your back and you needn’t bother others for help.
I paddle more, but with a real joy. I explore every little bend and twist and bay and stop to listen to the birds.
I ride my bike and look for places beside the trail to make coffee. I carry enough in my bags to stay out longer and take my time.
I’ve slowed down deliberately because I don’t want to miss anything. I don’t want to miss a single thing.
There has to be a word for it surely? Saunter – now that’s an underused word. It just sounds beautiful and I don’t care for a detailed history of the word as I prefer Henry David Thoreau’s version. I can’t write it any better of course, so I’ll simple finish with this quote.
“I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art of walking, that is, of taking walks — who had a genius, so to speak, for sauntering, which is beautifully derived “from idle people who roved about the country, in the Middle Ages, and asked charity, under pretence of going a la Sainte Terre, to the Holy Land, till the children exclaimed, “There goes a Sainte-Terrer,” a Saunterer, a Holy-Lander.
“Some, however, would derive the word from sans terre, without land or a home, which, therefore, in the good sense, will mean, having no particular home, but equally at home everywhere. For this is the secret of successful sauntering. He who sits still in a house all the time may be the greatest vagrant of all; but the saunterer, in the good sense, is no more vagrant than the meandering river, which is all the while sedulously seeking the shortest course to the sea.”