Sunday, June 17, 2012

In the Words of Lao Tzu, The Longest Journey Begins With a Single Step

I read Pride and Prejudice this past week, and every time Elizabeth Bennet went for a walk though the English countryside, which is at least once a chapter, it seems, I practically swooned. I love walks. I'm actually a non-driver, so walking is what I do. And taking a long, leisurely walk in the UK, especially when I'm alone, with a Moleskine in my pocket to jot notes about my current work-in-progress as I wander and think, is, in the words of my MIL, so romantic.

Going for a walk in West Texas in the summertime is not romantic. Going for a walk in West Texas looks something like this:

Walking along edge of park near my house.

ME [melts in 100 degree heat, and ignores passing cars filled with immature red-necks hooting and honking]: ...

[Passes a father walking with two sweet-looking, smiling daughters who are waving and making me think of my own sweet daughters. Waves back, and admires lovely day]


ME: Hello!

THE FATHER: Do you have a place to go?

ME: Do I have a place to ... what?

[The Father says something to older daughter, and older daughter runs over]

THE DAUGHTER: Excuse me, but do you need any help?

ME: Um... no, I don't need any help, thanks.

THE DAUGHTER: But do you need a place to stay?

ME [horrified as it dawns that they think I'm HOMELESS]: I'm going for a walk.

[The Daughter rushes over to The Father and relays information.]

THE FATHER: Oh, sorry! Thought you might need a little help! [rushes off]

Yes, that's right, folks. I go for a walk in West Texas, having just showered and put on clean jeans and a t-shirt, and passers-by think I'm homeless. And those who don't think I'm homeless, or who aren't just hooting at me, ask me if I want a ride wherever it is I'm going.

But not in the UK! They have public footpaths all over the place! And do you know what people do on said footpaths? They take leisurely walks, just like Elizabeth Bennet did hundreds of (fictional) years ago. No one hoots. No one mistakes me for a vagrant.

So, the other day, with notebook in pocket, I set off for the nearest footpath. I passed a darling little river, with wild foxgloves and other purple-y flowers along the edge. Charming, I thought, as I followed the footpath signs into a field. Everything here in the UK is just so very charming.

Approximately 2 minutes later it began to rain.

No, pour. 

But I wasn't about to give up on my romantical afternoon walk, so I side-stepped cow poo (because the field was actually a cow pasture) and ran around seeking shelter of some kind. I found it under a copse of hawthorn trees, which naturally brought back my romantic mood, so I pulled out my notebook and jotted ideas until the rain subsided.

Still only about .015 miles from my starting point, I got back to my walk.

Except here's the thing: there aren't any signs in a cow field. Yeah, the public footpath signs led me in, but then they just went away. Poof! So I walked and walked, through mud and wet grass and cow poo, searching for the rest of the foot path. Even the cows thought I was insane as I wandered, I could tell. And, while J. R. R. Tolkien reminds us that not all who wander are lost, sometimes wanderers are lost.

Very lost.

In an enclosed field, which makes it all the more ridiculous.

At this point, I would have loved for a family of thinks-I-am-homeless people to come walking by to lead me out of the field, but all the sensible people were probably at the pub.

When I did find the way out - or the way in, rather, because I finally ended up back where I started - I was ready to be done with my dang walk. And I was in desperate need of dry socks.

The bright side: I found some really cool trees beside the entrance of the field for the girls to climb! I took them to the cow field today and it didn't rain and they loved it.

And the next time I go for a walk along a public footpath, I'll be sure to ask for directions beforehand.



Meeling said...

How fun! Love Pride & Prejudice!! I was just in England (as you know) but this trip was more for my son. I was also there about 10 years ago and made the trek out to the castle/house that was Pemberley in the BBC production. Oh what a day that was!! To walk to the grounds and just imagine. It's a must do if you are any where near!

Julie Dao said...

I LOVE this post. I am also a fan of taking a walk, but I too have to face the losers honking. There are also creepy old men who hit on me and give me their numbers. Oy yoy yoy. I'd love to have a nice park or footpath to walk on. Somewhere far away from the cars and the bustling traffic. Maybe I need to plan a trip to England soon :)

Natalie C Parker said...

Well, now I know if we're ever trying to meet in a coffeeshop or conference, I'll just look for the woman who looks homeless.

Leah said...

Dying laughing - can't believe the guy back in TX thought you were homeless! Are you sure you showered before your walk? ;)

amaris glass said...

Oh my gosh I have done this EXACT SAME THING. Only I was actually a little scared of all the cows...and of someone watching me, laughing, as I tried to find the other end of the footpath. Someone had put up a very helpful sign at a likely-looking gate saying 'NOT public footpath,' but gave no indication of where the actual footpath might be.

But still. UK = awesome. I'm glad you're having such a romantic time!

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