My Walk in the Park: An Allegory
"Dance like no one is watching. Sing like no one is listening. Love like you've never been hurt and live like it's heaven on Earth"
I’ve noticed that a lot of folks who fire up weblogs feel the need to rationalize their site’s existence. The eternal questions, like "Why am I here", and "Why should you give a damn?" seem to weight heavily, so Allah Be Praised and God Bless ‘em, these individuals offer up mission statements that aim to clarify who they are and what they’re up to. I’m not mocking or complaining; in fact, I generally enjoy reading these sorts of things, because they give me a little bit of a hook onto which I can hang the material that I pluck from their pages, and allow me to attempt some sorta integration, philosophically or aesthetically, of the writing I encounter. I’d like to think that simply quoting Mark Twain would be enough, but why not put a little more of myself into it, says I; what follows is my attempt to defend my hope that you’ll invest your valuable time by sharing some of it with me here. Time is key, for as Alexander Pope said, "Some people will never learn anything…because they understand everything too soon."
My house abuts against Thetis Lake Park, which affords me daily walks with my beloved, if slightly brain-addled, dog Molly. This is a lovely little park that boasts a network of trails that crisscross each other, weaving a tapestry of opportunity to check out nature in all her bounty. There are so many trails that, if you enter the park with an open mind and an ounce or two of spontaneity in your blood, there’s no reason you should ever have the same walk twice.
Of course, the first few times I ventured into the park, I stuck to the established park-cut trails, playing it safe until I got my bearings. Soon, though, I was forking off into lesser used paths, because that’s where you’ll find more interesting things; this is where I hope to really discover what’s distinctive about the parkland. Some of these smaller trails are official, with names and trail markers and all that, while others are made by saps like me who simply veer off into the woods on some sort of Robert Frostian road less traveled whim.
Now, I’m no Wordsworth or Keats, seeking refuge from man’s evil world or a clearer understanding of life’s complex truths through a closer relationship with nature, but I do have every intention of using these walks to soak up all that the great outdoors has to offer and reconnect with that low-humming vibe that is the Life Force coursing through all of our beings, but the reality is I spend most of my time thinking about other things. Molly (my dog, remember?) though, is in the Zen of the Moment pretty much every second she’s with me on these explorations. She is not, however, exactly the model of efficiency—for every single kilometre I travel, she probably covers ten. While I can, if the mood strikes me, ruminate on the way a bit of light strikes a leaf, she’s bounding hither and yon, enjoying a sensual experience that’s almost certainly a thousand miles wider, but (one would hope) infinitely less deep. Is she, in her complete lack of self-awareness, more tuned into things than me, the completely and sometimes cripplingly self-conscious narrator of this tale? Is she more content, living every second of her existence this way, flinging herself over the nearest hillock in pursuit of the newest smell and the next fruitless squirrel hunt, than yours truly, who is often distracted from the light-on-a-leaf epiphanies not only by what’s happening now, but by what happened yesterday and what will happen tomorrow?
Probably. But then again, Molly can’t use a keyboard, or at least, if she could I feel pretty comfortable in the assumption that the best she could produce would look something like this: c.,mfl;;aui3jhg;,*^%$#(#K)*YU#K (and the latter only if she mastered the shift key) and since she’s been spayed, she probably doesn’t have anything particularly lasting to offer the world, so maybe, just maybe I have a leg up on her in that area at the very least. Also, when I go to bed each night I can smile smugly to myself in the knowledge that-- if the actuary tables are to be believed—the probability is that I’m going to outlive her by several decades.
So onward I travail. By following the most eccentric pathways I usually end up on a mildly pleasant if slightly predictable stroll that is indistinguishable from a dozen other strolls that I’ve taken over the years. But every once in awhile I find myself on a path that leads to some pretty interesting discoveries, like the time I stumbled across a tiny unmarked stream that fought its way through a rocky outcropping producing a beautiful miniature Niagara. The bonsai effect was stunning—like opening the doors leading out of the bloody carnage in The Inn of the Blue Leaves to find the serene vision of a Japanese garden in the snow in the final moments of Kill Bill Vol. 1 (sans Uma and Lucy, of course and unfortunately.)
Of course, there’ve been times when I’ve been forced to wonder what kind of dolt would craft a trail that cuts along a knife’s edge overhanging a cliff of Indiana Jones-like proportions? And I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t think about what would happen if I slipped. Like, what would Molly do? Would she attempt a Lassie-like rescue? Probably not—though that’s probably more to do with my own laziness with regards to her training than her own moral failure. More likely, she’d end up being immortalized in a future CSI episode about the dog who survived for a week in the wild by dining on the dead flesh of her clumsy master. But still and all, before I hoist myself onto some sort of higher moral ground, I have to ask myself what I’d do if the tables were turned. The fact that she’s only a mid-sized dog, and I’d only get a few good meals out of her plays little my belief that if dear old Molly met her mortal end on one of our hikes together, I’d surely hike out of the woods tell everyone that, while I fought heroically when we were attacked by wolverines, losses were incurred.
But back to the point, or what there is of one, almost always these deviations from the mainstream lead to a dead end, in which case logic dictates I oughta double back until I find a more established path. Of course, if we always followed such sage and safe advice, today there’d be no Northwest Passage to the Indies, would there? Instead, when I hit a dead end, particularly if the walk has been an interesting one, I like to carry it on just a little bit further, extend the trail as far as my limited talents as a hiker will allow me, and hope that others who happen upon the few meager bent twigs that mark my passage here will do the same.