I’ve been forcing myself to get up at 6am. It’s been difficult but not difficult in the way that battling your own emotions is. Not difficult in the way raising a child as a single parent is. Not difficult in the way fighting an addiction is. When I talk about it, I feel both stupid and accomplished. This is what I call difficult? What a privilege. It’s a mental thing more than anything. A placebo. That’s the thing with placebos though, if they produce the effect you want, then it works. Maybe I’m trying to give meaning to a pointless new habit.
I put my headphones in as I lock the front door. I’ve been trying to listen to music more often. More. 16 year me couldn’t have imagined needing to consciously think about listening to more music. 60 seconds in I stop. The point of this walk is to be present. I hear birds, muffled through tiny white earbuds. I take them out. It’s as if I’ve cleared the car window of steam and can see the road ahead. This is better. It’s peaceful.
It’s a Saturday morning, 06:21am. This path has been busy this past few mornings, mainly with runners. Presumably getting their daily exercise in before sitting at a desk all day. That’s the story I tell myself, they could be going back to lie in bed and watch Star Wars for all I know.
Today, there’s no-one. It’s the “weekend.” Our cultural rest period. I suddenly snap into thoughts of the strange dream I had last night. Why? I keep walking. Legs are stiff, why am I out of breath going up these steps? I ran 8km a few days ago and was fine. This is the point of the walk. Brush off the cobwebs. Both in the body and the brain.
It dawns on me that I’m not looking at anything, nor have I been. I couldn’t describe anything that I’ve seen or heard. Totally in my head. Daydreaming and pondering. Why even leave the house? I could daydream in bed.
I’m standing at the peak of the Women’s Peace Garden. There would be a great view from here if there was something good to look at. Instead, I see a forest of terraced houses. It’s perspective really, why isn’t this a great view? If I was interested in the architecture of 1990s residential housing this would be fascinating. But I’m not.
I see a plaque that explains the history of the peace garden. Now that I’m conscious of my lack of consciousness I feel like I should read it. A duty. There’s a giant peace symbol down below, stone amongst grass. I’ve stood here countless times and never saw the symbol. I smell Lavender nearby and pick a sprig to take with me. It’s not quite ripe, or whatever a flower does, blossom? According to the plaque there are fig trees here too but I don’t have a clue what a Fig tree looks like. I feel like that person who tells you a fact but can’t explain it because they don’t understand themselves.
I walk slower on the way back. I see birds that I don’t know the name of. There is so much I don’t know. I should look up common birds in the area, it would be interesting to know but I won’t.
I see a woman walking in the distance. I’ve seen her twice now. From the way she’s walking and her body language, I assume that she’s distracting herself. She has purpose but seems unsettled. Why do I assume she’s doing anything different than I am? She doesn’t have her state commissioned safety mask on. Nor do I. Maybe she’s out early to avoid the virus. I wonder what she was doing a year ago. I realise everything is just a perception. Assumptions made as a result of our own life experience.
It’s just me again. A man without a mask appears from nowhere smoking a cigarette. He doesn’t have the appearance of your stereotypical early morning walker. He’s much older but seems as if he’s come from a party. He doesn’t seem like someone who would be at a party. Not that he doesn’t look like he would party but more so that he wouldn’t be invited. He looks like someone you would kick out of a party. He mumbles “G’day” as he takes a drag. His walk is disjointed. I say hello. I hear him question “hello?” and mumble as I walk on. Maybe he’s distracting himself too.
The skies have just opened, I hear what I think is thunder in the distance. I’m glad I went for a walk earlier, it’s much less likely I would have done it in the rain. The weather doesn’t stop the birds from chirping though, maybe they’re complaining about the rain.
It’s 07:20am now and still peaceful. It’s warm enough to be outside in a t-shirt but cool enough for an Irishman to be comfortable. I sit on a blue fold-up festival chair and sip coffee from an enamel mug my mum got me for Christmas. It’s the diet-camping experience.
I told myself I’d try to avoid caffeine before midday to see if I was a “lark” or a “third bird” because it’s important to know your chronotype for optimum working conditions. Who am I kidding. Maybe tomorrow.
*Pat pat pat pat pat pat* The steady rhythm of a runners stride as feet strike wet tarmac. I look up to see beautiful form. I wish I could run like that. If an Alien sat on my front porch, it would think that running was how we got from one place to another. The rain doesn’t stop runners. Just walkers. You don’t go for a walk in the rain because it’s leisure. Running though has a greater purpose.
I heard a door open a few minutes ago and can now smell the sweet scent of tobacco. My neighbour must be having their first smoke of the day. Probably with a morning coffee. That’s what people do right? There’s something quite relaxing about the smell. Maybe it’s European tobacco. I realise I know nothing about Tobacco.
It’s 8am now. I hear voices, the familiar sound of more than one person. Couples. Pairs. Collaborators of conversation. People with dogs. A woman on the phone with an English accent. A kid on rollerblades. Five men run together, Dad squad. I imagine that they’re talking about football, the two that are comfortable talking whilst running anyway. They could be talking about cooking or the war in Yemen for all I know. I’ve seen the same woman run past four times, this time she’s running with a pram. A man cycles in his fluorescent jumper with four fishing rods, a box of tackle and beers. I can’t see beers but it’s what I imagine.
The rain stops and the world starts to awaken. With that, the scent of the rain on the dry soil starts to rise and I think, Petrichor!