Impulse arrested spills over, and the flood is feeling, the flood is passion, the flood is even madness: it depends on the force of the current, the height and strength of the barrier. The unchecked stream flows smoothly down its appointed channels into a calm well-being.
Aldous Huxley, Brave New World, chapter III
I went for a walk today. It was about 5:00pm or so, the sun was still in the sky but well on it’s way to disappearing behind the hills and trees. It was behind the houses in my neighborhood as I walked to the woods. My first walk there in quite a while. It was well over 90 degrees on my last walk. It was barely fifty when I left today.
The wind was strong, very strong, blowing leaves and twigs and larger branches around and about. The wind, from the tail end of a nor’easter,was blowing seemingly from several directions at once. It howled and shook the trees and power lines and houses for all the world to hear. All the world but me. I had Metallica with me for this walk, the headphones on my mp3 player drowning out completely the outside world.
People I passed before I got to the park for my walk were bundled up, as if it were cold, as if the wind made some kind of difference. Like the coolness of October was somehow a bad thing, something to hide from. I walked around with a light denim jacket, black, with a thin old, green, long sleeved shirt on underneath, jacket open. Playing air guitar as “Fight fire with Fire” blared through the headphones, mouthing the words to the songs, knowing better than to sing.
As I reached the park, I got the sudden urge to toss stuff around, walk around the park and break a sweat moving mother nature. I cannot explain the urge (though I will try at the end of this piece), and would not try to even if I could, I just wanted to throw stones, pick up branches and tree trunks and hurl them around. Yes it is crazy, I told myself. So what? The world is crazy, most every one I know is (despite what they themselves think) crazy, and I fit well in this world.
The Savage shook his head. “It all seems to me quite horrible.”
“Of course it does. Actual happiness always looks pretty squalid in comparison with the over-compensations for misery. And, of course, stability isn’t nearly so spectacular as instability. And being contented has none of the glamour of a good fight against misfortune, none of the picturesqueness of a struggle with temptation, or a fatal overthrow by passion or doubt. Happiness is never grand.”
Aldous Huxley, Brave New World, chapter xvi
The first thing I did was just walk around, and look at my surroundings. As I walked around, I found myself looking around almost hunting for something, eyes flitting here and there at a very rapid pace, never landing on one object for more than 1/10th of a second, or so it seemed. Looking high and low, left and right, behind, ahead. This went on for several minutes, until I got to a place that I thought was supposed to be part of a path, one that only a few people had walked.
It was covered in brush and a hundred little thorny things, and it looked like it had not seen another person walk that path since the last time I was there several months ago. I immediately set about looking for a way to clear the path. I looked for something large and heavy with which to rip the brush and brambles out with. Nothing big was close enough.
I spied 6 or 7 small branches, each about half a yard long, as thick as the shaft of a hockey stick, semi rotted. I used them to push and angle most of the crap away from the main path. There were always several long thorn covered vines in my general vicinity, always threatening to puncture me in a variety of places.
Along with my stomping on the thorns, the branches did the job well enough for someone who was careful to walk through. I was amazed and happy that I wasn’t bleeding from any of the places where I ran a leg or arm or hand along or on a thorn covered vine. My hands were dirty from the rotted wood, and I liked it.
This finished, I looked around and found I was happy with what I had done, and walked away. I walked about 30 feet away and walked down a second path, this one clear of debris, to a clearing maybe 100 yards away with two tree trunks laying near a path off to my right. “For Whom The Bell Tolls” was thundering in my ears, this inspiring me to greater exertion. I tried moving the bigger one, which was about 40 feet long, and at its thickest was around as wide as my waist. I managed to move it, albeit just barely and after about 8 different tries at a variety of angles to move it further, decided it was best to walk away. The smaller one was beneath that one, and didn’t interest me much after that.
My failure to move the tree almost annoyed me, but since it got me sweating, something I always enjoy, I decided to just walk the hills. The sun had slowly begun to fade from the sky, and while not yet dark, the sun was now almost completely behind the hill, and things had darkened noticeably, there would be no more silliness with tree trunks this walk. Ah well, twas fun silliness while it lasted.
I meandered aimlessly for a few minutes walking less well known, relatively unused paths, places I knew like the back of my hand but that only a few people walked, as witnessed by the leaves and sticks and stones strewn about the ground. I found myself standing on the very top of a very steep hill, what seemed about 100 feet above the run path in the park where I run regularly, or did when I was running there everyday. I found that I had the urge to walk the hill, and did.
At its steepest point, this hill has about a 35 degree angle to it. I decided to make it more fun, to do it without using my hands, not to steady myself in any fashion, on ground or myself, to grab a tree to keep myself from falling, nothing.
After walking down a less steep side path to get to the bottom of the hill, it was pretty easy early on moving from the bottom of the hill, the ground was moist but relatively stable, and gave a good foothold, but that stopped after 1/3 of the hill had been walked. The steepness increased, and with it more detritus found itself underfoot and made for some slippage, and twice I nearly fell down, but did not. I kept the promise to myself to not use my hands to stead myself, and found it easiest to just lean far forward and crab walk up the rest of the hill.
Feet wide apart, taking very long steps left and right, I managed to make it up the rest of the hill. I again slipped a few times, but when I did I just lowered my center of gravity, and pushed forward. Felt good to get to the top of the hill. It would have been easier to steady myself with my hands, but I didn’t mind, especially as I didn’t fall down flat on my ass and roll down the hill.
No amount of Metallica would have made that feel any better. The sun went down, and as it left I left the park for others to enjoy as they wished, neither of us worse for wear from the days mild exertions.
I know why I get the urge to go on these walks as the weather gets cooler and the nights get longer. I love the night, I enjoy the weather, and the solitude that comes allows me to let my hair down, and that in and of itself is great for tension release and relief. The tossing stuff around and other stuff I did this walk might seem weird, but it is simply a part of me.
Ordering my world, moving things around I know I can control in the physical realm to make up for a lack of control elsewhere, maybe?
Putting things in their proper place, so that I can feel better about the way things are?
Trying, on some unconscious level, to return things to the way they were, and by doing so, moving myself back to a better day and time in my life when things seemed better, easier?
Love of sweat and irrational behavior?
Perhaps some of it, perhaps all of it. Maybe I’m just nuts. Sounds good to me.
Go to sleep, America.