This Sunday for the first time in many many weeks I was for one reason or another dandering on my own which afforded me the chance to walk in silence something that I actually enjoy as much as the camaraderie of walking with my chums, just in a different way. Now when I started wandering some 3 years ago I wandered close to home, exploring the edges of where I have lived for more than 50 years discovering things I had missed or never appreciated before. My walks got longer over time and I moved from road and path walking to off road danders into what passes in Northern Ireland for wilderness and discovered new and exciting places. As today was deemed to be a solo effort I decided to Dander once again around Coleraine, something I had not done since last winter.
I started walking for the health benefits but now that is only a small, but important, part of why I walk. I would posit that the pleasure I find in wandering around is solidly placed in nosiness. I like seeing things, things that are perhaps ordinary and easily dismissed, then once found to look at them in new ways. Dandering is not like running or gym work, dandering is, perhaps, a more cerebral activity, it is about taking time to look around to see things that perhaps you wouldn’t notice if you were running, biking or bustling along. It challenges you to separate yourself from your day to day life. It allows you the small experiential luxuries of seeing, touching and smelling things in a way you are not allowed to in normal life.
Today is Samhain (pronounced Saw-in) in Gaelic tradition which has evolved into the rather mixed up and confused “Halloween” in popular culture . Samhain is where the end of the light half of the year touches the start of the dark half, it was traditionally a time to celebrate the harvest, to have a bit of a feast, and at that feast set a place for those absent through death or happenstance. We remember who we are and how we sit in the context of our families, friends and the wider community.
As Autumn moves into Winter it may seem like sad, bleak, glum time and not a time for happiness and celebration but such is the nature of place we call home … but … trees … there is beauty in leafless trees that I had missed before and today I took a moment to admire the lovely handwriting of one old tree’s twigs against the sky. While winter is a season of reserves, a reticent season, it does not throw its treasure into my outstretched hands I must seek it, watch for it, and learn to appreciate the beauty of its subtle colours.
So as we step once again into the gathering dark of Winter, I for one challenge you gentle reader not to wrap yourself up in dreams of summer but to seek out the treasures this season has to offer and celebrate them when you find them ;-