For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move. ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON

Friday, 18 February 2011

Beating The Bounds

Country people call it 'beating the bounds', this ritual walk I try to do each day, religiously tracing the village perimeter.

The late-winter morning is cold and misty. As I walk, I can feel my blood coursing furiously round my body. My booted feet drum the hardened clay. Dull, unaccented, unechoing sounds thud at my ears: the cough of a tractor engine, a dog's dry bark, pigeons clattering from the trees in the grounds of the old manse. I hurry by old cottages of brick and stone, lath and plaster. Bent almost double, I shoot down holly tunnels; climb stiles; unlatch and latch creaking gates.

A startled hare veers across ploughed fields, pounding its signature on the bare earth. A heron, emblem of the distant gravel pit lakes, flaps slowly over me, its wings broad and raggy-ended, pink legs dangling as it drops out of sight beyond a hedgerow. A green plover, an unusual bird round here, with  crested head and black neckband, divebombs two crows above the sillion. Landrover tracks are secret hieroglyphs; and in one puddle a diesel spill is all rainbow.

This ordinary path, this ritual path, is unremarkable. It's just one of a thousand similar paths in the English Midlands. You'd walk it without a thought or  backward glance. But it's my path, this meandering, circumambulatory path; my past, present and future are all bound up in it.  It's my soul's artery, my metaphysical highway, the channel of my own lifeblood. It circulates round the very heart of my personal piece of England.

9 comments:

George said...

Only a fine poet could string together words as beautiful as these, Robert. This little reminiscence is both elegant and exquisite. For some reason, it reminded me of the first time I saw van der Weyden's small painting of "St. George and the Dragon" at Washington's National Gallery of Art. It was great art made all the greater by its small scale. That's how I feel about this piece — and I'm serious about that, my friend!

pilgrimpace said...

"1747. On Ascension Day after morning prayer at Turnworth Church, was made a public Perambulation of the bounds of the parish of Turnworth by me Richd. Cobbe, Vicar, Wm. Northover, Churchwarden, Henry Sillers and Richard Mullen, Overseers and others with 4 boys; beginning at the Church Hatch and cutting a great T on the most principal parts of the bounds. Whipping the boys by way of remembrance, and stopping their cry with some half-pence; we returned to church again, which Perambulation and Processioning had not been made for five years last past."

am said...

Until just now, I had not clearly pictured the size of your village, that you could walk its perimeter daily. That a village could have a perimeter that could be walked is something I had not considered as a possibility.

Now that I think in these terms, though, the small California coastal town of Mendocino is referred to as a village, and I have walked its perimeter.

You speak the language of the heart. Thanks for this.



http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mendocino,_California

Julie said...

Hello. Thank you very much for your kind comments today. I have enjoyed meeting Lorenzo, Ruth, and George, and now I am happy to meet you, too. What a beautiful blog you have. Yes, those solitary walks feel like a lifeline for me. I love the tree lined paths of the village in your picture. It is all so lovely. Your words describe it (and the feeling that goes with it) vividly. Thank you for sharing it here. I look forward to reading more. Have a beautiful weekend!

Arija said...

A seemingly boring ritual walk to the uninitiated who only walk for their 'health' and miss the finer points of a well trodden, well loved path with all its subtle nuances and ever changing light and sounds.

Delightfully relived for our benefit. Thank you.

Ruth said...

Robert, my heart lept like George's reading this gorgeous piece. Your words flow like a road through trees or a creek over rocks. Walking your words every day would be as sweet a delight as walking your soul's artery. You may "hurry by" but you are seeing everything, hearing all, feeling it.

A walker and a poet too, now that is a gift. It's like having a friend like Thoreau!

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks so much, George - the small can indeed be great, though I'm not making any claims for my brief cameo ...

Andy - loved your historical vignette about the 'perambulation of the bounds' ...

And, am, I think my own village may well be easier to circumnavigate than Mendocino. I'm envious of your perimeter walk ...

Julie - thanks so much for your visit and lovely comment. I'm so happy to meet you too. Your blog is an umissable port of call for me from now on ...

Thanks, too, Arija - the familiar walks can indeed sometimes be the most rewarding ...

And Ruth - that is so romantic, my friend! Though alas, a Thoreau-like friendship can be a difficult thing ...

Tramp said...

I can identify with this so well. People think such a walk is boring but as you have told us there is so much to observe, no two walks on the same route need be the same. On a walk like this you can visit yourself.

The Solitary Walker said...

So well put, Tramp. Nothing in life is boring, really - if we only put our minds and spirits fully to the task. No two walks, no two routes, no two lives are ever the same.