The Path

Coming back is never the same as the journey there, have you ever noticed. I like my land marks and today I was struck by just how different they looked on the way back from how they looked on my way there. The position of the Sun, less than an hour later, the river that seemed to have changed course, the tree that had a certain majestic pride on the way there, became gnarled and twisted when I looked at it on the way back. The same Sun, the same river and the same tree. I turned to look back on the same scene, from the same place and at the same angle, but somehow coming back had a sense of loss to it.

I had relished the idea of getting out, the Sun was low in the sky and the moon was still visible, the frost was light and clung to the windscreen of my car. I decided not to scrape the ice off, instead opting to put the warm air on high and watch the cracks appear across the blanket of white that obscured my view. It was refreshing to watch the water drip down the back window as the heating melted the lacework of ice. The outside of the windscreen cleared and the inside misted. The warm air of the heater, pushed the mist up and the road became visible before me.

When we arrived, the hillside was white and I wondered if I should have brought my gloves. The glory of the woods was accentuated by the Autumn hues of orange and gold and the Sun squeezed through the gaps in the canopy to warm the path and flowing river. This was going to be a good walk.

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I walked for half an hour before I turned back, but the path was now sludgy, and the golds turned to darker rusts. The cracking of frozen leaves under my feet had changed to the squelch of mud. This path although the same, was now different.

It brought to mind some of the iconic journeys I have taken. Not the ones to far off places. The journeys that meant a lot to me.

When I was young we lived close to London and the journey there was one of excitement. As we left the motorway I would check the time. Taking 30 minutes to go down the motorway and then 30 minutes to get to my cousins was the norm. Getting home was always different. The landmark was the twin towers of the high-rise blocks of flats you could see from the motorway. They were the same blocks of flats that I saw on the way there but they always looked so depressing on the way home. It was always late and we were always tired.

As I grew older and my family changed I lived further away. The site of the twin towers became a welcoming sight as I got closer to my family and I could finally relax as I turned off the main roads.

Returning home, we would pass a yard where they creosoted large batons of wood. The smell pungent and distinctive. Like a dose of smelling salts, it would wake me up and give me the vitality I needed to tackle the last big town on our way home. On the way out, the smell was an obnoxious concoction of chemicals. The timing had to be just right, the last thing you ever wanted was to get stuck in a queue of traffic on that road.

I have had adventures and I have times when I have been stuck in a rut. I wouldn’t say it was less exciting getting to where I wanted to be, than it was to leave where I have been, I’d say they were different journeys. My walk today took me through the woods, the trees were golden and the ground under foot was crisp, the frost still lingered and the moon clung desperately to her position in the sky as the Sun tried to break through and shine her brightest. I walked back and squidged my way through the Sun warmed path and the fallen leaves of Autumn. Each journey started and ended in the same place, took roughly the same time and covered the same path, but both were totally different.

It struck me that the others on the same path today would have seen things differently to me. They would have different feelings and see things in a different light to me. Although I walked back with two others and their dogs, they were parked on the other side of the woods and would see the trees, river and the Sun in a totally different way as they walked back. I wondered if life was the same, I know for a fact it is for me. When Mark and I go on a journey he always sees things from his side of the car that I miss and I see things that he misses. We are all on the same journey, life takes us all down the same path. Some of us stop, some of us trip, some of us rush head long through the path never pausing to see the beauty of the things around us.

As I stopped and watched the blue tits that flittered through the tree boughs, visible as the leaves thinned, a man rushed by. He looked at me as though I had lost the plot.

“I’m watching the birds; can you hear them? Aren’t they amazing.”

“Oh yes.” He stated never looking up from his feet. I wonder if he’ll ever see the woods that line the path, I wonder if he’ll ever notice that the path looks different to everyone else. I wonder if he’ll ever know the beauty of the life he has, or if the path of life for him is to just get from one end to the other. As from Birth to Death. I pity him.

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