As I’ve been walking over the last few days I’ve seen and said hello to a lot of people.
It’s somehow always easier to say this to those that are passing if it’s a sunny day – as weather is a great opener. Just as you can commiserate a truly awful day with a knowing but grim rain soaked nod of the head you can also stop and chat about how blue the sky is and how unexpectedly clement the day has turned out to be.
I’ve been treated to another lovely symphony of colour and floral scents almost everywhere I walked yesterday – and I’ve continued to take pictures of flowers as I’ve moved from place to place – noting that even by the sides of busy roads there have been splashes of vibrant beauty and nature peeping through little cracks in concrete.
Yesterday’s pace was a little more sedate – and unusually for me I’ve been listening to a lot of reggae (mostly UB40) as I’ve been lolloping along which has left me happily reminiscing about the past. This music has taken me back to the early 90’s in Birmingham and some very relaxed times, lazily strolling around hand in hand with my girlfriend whilst wearing my ‘Labour of Love II’ long white tee-shirt over some baggy light blue Levi denims.
Both items of clothing (and my tempestuous but pretty girlfriend) were my absolute pride and joy for a while.
Somehow walking at a certain pace, with a particular rhythm and to a particular tune managed to take me right back to these long forgotten times and places where (now maybe rather whimsically I think) I didn’t have a care in the world.
Consequently I’ve felt completely at peace.
As I’ve walked over the last few days though, as well as remembering some really good times and friendships I’ve been reminded as well just how amazingly precious life is.
I know I write a lot about how things have changed in my life – but sometimes the world has a way of tapping you on the shoulder and pointing out to you that you’re never all that far away from a very different reality.
My first thought about this came when I saw a lady in a heavily modified and motorised wheelchair with her young toddler on her lap. I’d seen them travelling down the high street earlier in the morning and noticed because both mother and daughter were happily nattering to each other as they trundled along together in matching sunglasses.
When I arrived in Jephson Gardens they were already ahead of me and had deployed a loaf of bread for the gathering pigeons.
They were both loving the park – and seemed really happy to be out and about together. As I watched them feeding the hungry birds though it struck me that the lady had no choice bur to sit in the wheelchair and watch her young daughter as she hopped off her lap and ran to the nearby feeding ground with lumps of bread to drop over the fence.
Being outside and together was more than enough for both of them in that moment though – and feeding the pigeons had put broad smiles on both of their faces. Seeing them enjoying themselves so much put a smile on mine too.
My second was in Old Milverton, as I walked behind a young couple with their dogs. They were hand in hand and the three dogs were running as if their lives depended on it back and forth across the dry and recently ploughed earth.
The pair were walking quite slowly and since I was moving faster behind them I stepped to the side to pass whilst wishing them a good morning.
As I passed I noticed that the lady had a portable oxygen tank slung over her shoulder (I’d originally mistaken it for a handbag) which was periodically hissing as it pushed the gas through its attached tubes to her nose. She too was smiling as I said ‘hello’ and she remarked upon what a wonderful day it was. I smiled back and agreed with her as I passed by and fussed one of her dogs.
Both of these ladies were stark reminders that for most of us there is absolutely no excuse not to get out and go for some exercise.
It’s not a chore. It’s a privilege, and one that might not be there forever. Their stoic insistence to not let whatever ailed them get in the way of living was quite inspiring, and in both cases I walked away hoping that the universe would cut them some slack with whatever battles they were fighting.
My third pause for thought however was quite unexpected.
Whilst eating my lunch and watching a pair of lively ducks gobbling up floating chunks of bread in the park I turned away for a moment to forage for a tomato and a piece of ham in my carrier bag.
When I looked back one of the ducks was frantic and splashing about in the pond in front of me.
It was repeatedly pushing it’s head down into the water and trying to use it’s webbed feet to hold onto something and turn it over underneath it’s body. It looked like it might be tangled in something underwater at first – but as I idly watched I realised that what it trying to pull up from below the water was a beak.
This belonged to the now limp and lifeless other duck, which while I’d been looking away had suddenly somehow died and rolled over. It’s head was completely submerged and the remaining duck was panicking like I’d never seen an animal panic before.
Try as it might it couldn’t lift the other duck’s head above water – but for over five minutes (and completely out of my reach) it tried to.
It became more and more desperate, as without the benefit of hands or arms it used it’s completely ineffectual beak and webbed feet to try and turn the body over and hold it’s head above the surface.
Each time it managed to almost do it the limp and lifeless duck just rolled again. As it’s head slipped again and again under the water it prompted yet another frantic dive and desperate attempt to bring it back to the surface.
A couple of geese floated up to the scene and joined me in sitting motionless watching the macabre scene play out.
After a while the bird was exhausted and could do little else but helplessly watch as for the final time its partner’s body rolled and its head slid under the water.
There was nothing to be done.
For a moment the remaining duck just silently floated next to the gathered geese and looked at the upturned body, with it’s mottled brown feathers now just barely visible above the water line.
I didn’t know what to think. I’d never seen an animal frantically trying to save the life of another animal before. Seeing the wide eyed desperation in the dead bird’s partner as it valiantly tried to save it over and over and over again (until it could hardly move itself) was desperately sad.
Eventually the remaining duck drifted away. As it did so it grabbed a floating chunk of bread and slowly swallowed it.
Life went on.
So, once again today I’m walking.
I’m going to be out there whether it’s raining, or whether it’s sunny. It doesn’t matter – because it’s a gift. Every moment of it – and if you’re sitting on the sofa reading this wondering whether you should get up and do something the answer is yes.
Use it while you have it internet – and love every moment of it.