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 forwards along the hard bank with freezing toes, 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 bird breaks the stillness for a second and the oddly bright reflection of a definitely dark sky ripples through liquid glass. No boats today. Or I’ve imagined them out of existence.
The air smells of wood burning in stoves.
Water, branches and earth all smoulder with 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, then?
Released from a familiar spot on the map, from bricks, walls, windows, beds—anchors to a sense of belonging that it’s meaningful to forget occasionally and momentarily. A nowhere place that evokes memories of 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 will always live behind the clouds and something else always exists past the previous furthest point. Out on the moors and on the sides of mountains, looking across open water and seeing the line where sky meets sea but knowing that it doesn’t end there.
It’s as important to not know what’s past the horizon. To live with beyondness; mystery is a great inventor.
I’ve walked significantly more intrepid miles but none have been more significant. This walk led to them all.