Essay..: The Joy Of Walking.

There’s a Whole World Out There! or:  The Joy Of Walking.

I now have no car. That statement in itself may require an explanation in these self-commuting times. But no … too tangled and tiresome a story, sufficient to state that the reason reaches back into the mists of time to when I once committed myself with a vow of : “I will”. And speaking of another thing that has ended, I feel I can state quite categorically ( as an observant walker) and declare it official that the daisy bush has replaced the geranium as the stalwart mainstay of verdant flowering flora in the suburban front garden! The long-lashed cheeky button flower of the daisy, has edged the precocious petals of the geranium off centre-stage. I suppose in this age of “go-get-‘em” attitude and “in-your-face” aggressiveness the battling geranium could hardly match the many blossomed, fast growing daisy-bush might .. is now right!

I notice these small things on my walks into the town where I live. Hybrid roses too have muscled-in on a place next to the footpath. all bright and starry-eyed like the budding stars they are, their many-hued blooms huge and alluring to the passer-by although I myself, religiously adhering to the adage : “Always take time to smell the flowers”, find little delight in discovering so scant a scent in such wonderful blossoms .. and I feel a little cheated, like false advertising that encourages false expectations , for surely, if there is any flower that looks delicious enough to kiss, it is the rose … and like any kiss, a fellah needs to take away with him an exotic, lingering scent of delight to caress and steel him against all the crassness of the outside world and … but I think I have made my disappointment plain …. the hybrid rose, without its scent is, to this man at least, as a woman without mystery!

It is Summer where I live and the fruit trees are bearing wonderfully! None more so than the cherry-plums along the railway track that I cut across on my way into town. For some reason these delicious trees are shunned by the public and much of the fruit is left to fall and rot on the ground. Bearing no such animosity to this sweet harvest, I make feast on their berries! … These, and plums galore accompany the walker on his journey and I make note the fruit of the nectarine tree leaning precariously over the corrugated iron fence of “Such and Such Ltd …. motor repairs” is deepening its crimson blush and fattening itself up for the pickings  not long now!

A Serbian I once worked with told me of the struggle against hunger in his youth after the 2nd WW, and how he made it his business to note when every fruit tree, every vine in every back-yard or lot in his village was ready to be  raided! such are the necessities of survival … In Australia where we take such things for granted, it is one more joy to be embraced on my walks.

Another thing I have noticed, although it has fallen out of fashion with the onset. of “Estate Housing” is the front fence The front fence is one of the last and lasting expressions of individuality in a world of shrinking imaginations.

In Australia, indeed, the world! … the front fence like certain hobbies, was open slather to any fetish of taste or tastelessness. I have seen them constructed of everything from shells to bits of ironmongery and even bones.. ‘TAKE THAT”! was the creed for some of the monstrosities separating the incumbent from the innocents in the outside world …. From bits of off-cut wood to animal bones and noduled limestone rocks! and what was the flower that inevitably graced these icons and filled the gaps in the masonry? … The geranium! Alas, it is gone now, as is that generation of front fence builders that, although predictable in all other mannerisms pertaining to suburban life, could be counted upon to equal or maliciously out do the neighbour in design or complexity the Bastille like structure of the front fence and gone also, is the geranium … alas, alas!

Windmills, simple in structure were a regular feature of front gardens, but these too have been replaced by more complex : “paddling duck” or “rowing men” and even by mass produced “cupid” bird-baths . Some of the more bombastic citizens plant spread-winged eagles gargoyled on top of gate-pillars which gaze threateningly down on the walker as he moves past. I remember seeing a young woman innocently walk past a live wedge-tailed eagle perched on a fence at eye level next to the footpath. Obviously a pet of the house there .. I was watching from a train at a station. As the woman drew abreast of the bird, she turned her head toward it (there is an impish spirit that provokes these actions!) . I presume she didn’t expect to see such a large creature a foot or so from her face, the sudden leap to the centre of the road was Olympian to say the least! and when her knees buckled under her, I thought she was going down for prayers on the bitumen! but no, she as swiftly regained her composure and with only a few deft pats of adjustments to her bobbed hair, promptly moved on …. against such nerves of steel, the male of the species has no chance …. though to this day I don’t know if it was the bird that screeched or the woman.

I keep a small box at home in which I place all the “treasures” gleaned from the roads when I walk. There are shiny (I prefer them to be shiny!) bolts and hose-clamps, a squash-ball, a mobile phone, spanners and other miscellaneous objects, some unidentifiable but interesting …. what few coins I find I spend.

The gutters and the shrubs are receptacles for all the detritus of mankind. Bits and pieces that fall off cars end up scarred and scraped into the kerbside gutters. Drink containers and waste paper end up stuffed, like bodies up chimneys in Poe’s : “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”  , into any nook or kicked under bushes. At nesting time any excess chicks forced or pushed out of nests end up little mounds of fluff on the footpath or flattened on the roads. I can’t help but feel pity for these helpless chicks. who don’t even get a start in life before it is brutally taken from them. But then, what animal in the wild ( even domestic) does not meet with a violent end? Though once, when a flock of starlings flew over me, I saw one fall, for no apparent reason, out of the flock almost to my feet,  dead as a doornail .. heart attack? old age? who knows, but it was only once that I saw that.

Walking can be very educational, peaceful and fulfilling. One’s thoughts fall into the rhythm of the step and rare is the worry or problem that cannot be resolved in oneself in the space of a good long walk. The relaxing contrasts of sunlight and shade, water sprinkler and breeze, the chlorophyll’d odour of fresh-cut lawn near the lake, the idle paddling of the ducks mixed with the joyful cries of children at play lend a certain visceral ambience to the atmosphere of the clinging world around us that we call life!

Ah! The Joy of walking..

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