Perspectives and Views

The Familiar Path

Yesterday was one of those blissful sunny autumnal days when it makes sense to abandon normal routines and instead spend a morning rambling through woods and countryside.

So that’s exactly what I did. There were many other things in my To Do list which I might better have occupied my time with, but since my To Do list never actually seems to reduce never mind disappear, it’s rarely worth feeling guilty about abandoning it.

I drew on the mental map in my mind, conjuring up the most fiery, orangey, leafy route I could envisage, which meant across to wooded Wyke Beck, up the ancient leafy path of Elmete Lane, across the woods of the golf course, into the woods of Roundhay Park, and along tree-lined Roundhay Gorge to another golf course before hitting civilization and a coffee outside Haley & Clifford, wrapped in a rug with a hot water bottle. Outside, despite the cold day, because naturally the dog would accompany me on my four mile ramble to grab a coffee.

It was all lovely, this crisp autumnal wander in sunshine. I maintained a brisk pace, and reflected on how it had been a while since I had taken a planned route. As I’ve mentioned before, I have a tendency to strike out and follow my nose as the whim takes me. I never quite know which route I will follow.

But as I came into the park woodland, my attention was caught by a path I had never been on before. I was surprised I’d never noticed it, and so naturally I turned to follow it. It was roughly going in the direction I was aiming at, but at a slightly higher altitude.

After 5 minutes of twisting and turning, I reached a large clearing. There was a carpet of leaves about a foot deep. The path had completely disappeared underneath. With my phone compass, I had a reasonable idea which way to go, but when I eventually descended into the gorge, I didn’t recognize where I was. It seemed an entirely new section of the gorge. I was puzzled, but intrigued, and wondered again how I could not know this stretch of the path. I carried on, still in unrecognisable territory, and felt quite thrilled that it was possible to get lost in suburban woodland.

Then suddenly, I knew where I was. In fact, I knew the stretch very well: except normally, I wandered it from the other direction, and usually with a full canopy of leaves overhead.

The bare trees had allowed much more light to pass through, and the blanketing effect of the leaves had resulted in a slightly surreal other-worldly appearance reminiscent of that produced by thick snowfall.

Reversing direction and a change of season had shown the path in such a different light it was quite literally unrecognisable. I began to reflect on the infinite number of ways a simple route could be transformed. The time of year. The hour of the day. The prevailing weather conditions.

It’s what makes daily walking so rewarding because there’s no such thing as the same route.

But more importantly, in any creative endeavour, it shows just how much may be potentially achieved through reworking the same path, the same idea, in different conditions and from different perspectives.

I think I am sometimes too quick to seek fresh ideas and subjects. I need to revisit some good old ideas from a different direction, on a sunny autumn day with a carpet of leaves crunching beneath my feet.

The Unfamiliar Path


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