Biting January air and the thick sky should feel oppressive. There should be a sense of needing to get back to warmth and comfort. To lamps and cups of tea, shit TV and dinners in the oven. But the cold feels sympathetic. One foot in front of the other, into the mist.
Keep moving forward along the hard bank, freezing toes/blocks of ice; heading out into a no man’s land of Car Giants, neglected canalside pubs and decrepit bridges where posters peel off walls and graffiti covers the decay. A long way past the previous furthest point.
The water is still. Occasionally a water bird breaks the stillness for a second and the oddly bright reflection of a definitely dark sky ripples through glass. No boats today. Or they’ve been imagined out of existence.
The air smells of wood burning in stoves.
Water, branches, earth; smoke with steam from residual heat. Everything damp then flecked with snow. The trees have been naked for months.
Normally I don’t enjoy winter and all the bareness. And this walk through a far-West London wasteland shouldn’t feel good. Nice houses, the bankside of Regents Park and the promise of coffee and civilisation should be far more enticing if I have to go out today. Why here?
Possibility. Released from a spot on the map; bricks, walls, windows, beds. Anchors to a sense of place that it’s meaningful to forget occasionally and momentarily. Looking out of car windows when you’re young and knowing that everything is about to happen because you haven’t taken root yet.
It’s important to be sure of some things: the sun lives behind the clouds and something else exists past the previous furthest point. Out on the moors and on the sides of mountains. Looking across open water and seeing to the edge but knowing that it doesn’t end there.
It’s as important (you may not agree) not to know what’s past the horizon. Beyond-ness. Mystery is a great inventor.
I’ve walked significantly more intrepid miles but none have been more significant. This walk led to them all.