This comes as part of our series of 30 microadventures during lockdown. You can find the rest here.
I will never forget the look on my Uber driver’s face in Egypt when I brought him into the desert and showed him pyramids, more impressive than the ones in Giza, that he’d never known existed. I mean, technically he was the one who was meant to be bringing me to new places! His jaw dropped.
But that can be like any of us in our home surroundings. We can live somewhere years, and never open our eyes to the extent of the reality around us. And so my microadventure for day 3 of April was going to be exactly that – simply walk in a direction that I hadn’t before and keep my eyes open for unusual things that spark my curiosity.
Now I live near the coast of Belfast Lough, and so I feel a little privileged. Within 200m of my door I can be out on coastal paths with lapping waters, sand and shore. But that was the run I do every day. So wanting to diversify, I set off into the concrete jungle of suburbia.
I also decided to do this walking, despite the fact it infuriated me. I’m a runner at heart. Walking bores me. Running frees my mind, gets the endorphins rushing and gets me quickly to beautiful places. But Mum and others have taught me that when I flee at high speed, I miss many incredible sights, sounds and experiences that I wouldn’t if I took the time and had the patience to slow down. So today I resigned myself to walk. With reluctance, but with a determination to make the most of it, if I was going to ‘suffer’ in this way!
And having thought I would need to hunt scraps of beauty, discarded under brick, mortar and tar of city-life, I was pleasantly surprised and quite ashamed to find that just a few hundred metres the other direction from my front door, lay a glen. A glen that I’d never been in before. And albeit a glen that was between two rough housing estates, nevertheless the green of a marvelous glen.
Now we’re quite privileged in Northern Ireland to have greenery in many places near to us, which makes even inner-city life pleasant at hard times. But still, I can’t believe I’d never been to this mile-long glen, so close to me!
I noticed 3 things in particular this time round:
- Just listen to the birdsong – tremendous! Life around every corner.
2. The trees – incredible if I actually stop and take time to enjoy the majesty of the HUGE ones, and the fun shapes of others:
3. If you struggle to get started with slowing down and learning things like birdsong or looking at trees, there are still fun challenges to be had, like this very simple one:
Sadly, I chickened out from that crossing….the grey skies of an April afternoon meant that I didn’t fancy the high likelihood of falling in (though why I shied away from this, given I was only under a mile from a fresh pair of socks and a warm shower, I don’t know). If you live close-by enough to return regularly to such places, (as long as you don’t damage the surroundings,) you could even try creating simple pleasures, like this rope swing across the stream:
And so as I turned round, having walked straight into a housing estate at the other end of my walk, I mentally skipped a few steps down the path again, excited at all that I’d found and thankful for new eyes on my surroundings. It was still very much a grotty, unkempt glen, which could do with me bringing a bag for rubbish/recycling next time I visited, but seen with other eyes, it was an adventure playground and a classroom for isolation times.
Perspective can change an awful lot for us these days, but is not easy to come by. Perhaps you can join me in slowing down, and finding a direction you haven’t yet walked from, and seeing if you can look on it with new eyes? And for the cynical, who think I’m just privileged where I live, I’ll go off in a different direction down a city street some day soon, and hope we don’t run into a brick wall with our adventurous spirit!