Rooting for Wild: A Tribute to Book and Film

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I love walking, especially in the Mourne Mountains with my husband Fintan. Reading about walking cheers me too, especially blogs like 30 ways of walking and Rebecca Solnit’s book Wanderlust, as I noted in early posts.

Imagine how delighted I was to find Cheryl Strayed’s book Wild . It is well worth catching up with for the intensity of experience and the magnificence of nature described by this great author. Her references to poetry and literature as inspirational resources resonate with me too, as I’ve mentioned before.

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Tied in with her extreme hike (like most walkers) Strayed found herself on an inner journey as well. Though I’m no real hiker, sticking to a few hours or maybe a day and certainly no camping rough, I too find a form of therapy and restoration in walking. It’s the rhythm of the tramp, the exercise, the fresh air, the daylight, the space to breathe and think and feel.

We caught the movie recently too and I commend Reese Witherspoon- she did a wonderful job and really got the emotion across as well as the gruelling physicality of the role. Wild certainly deserves some Oscars – I’m rooting for Wild.

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On Fountains

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Picture 1. The Tazza Fountain, Italian Garden, Kensington Gardens, London.

There is something about a fountain that enlivens and refreshes. The physicality and coolness of gushing water seems to seep into the mind and spirit via the bodily sensation of just standing there watching, witnessing, hearing, absorbing and breathing in the fresh, cool, spray-filled air.

On a recent trip to London with my husband Fintan, we enjoyed an afternoon’s walk in Kensington Gardens, discovering the newly re-furbished Italian Garden in the process. The Tazza fountain held a particular fascination for me and its magnetic attraction kept me there for ages, feeling almost hypnotised.

But it was the sculpture itself that also set me thinking along a symbolic thread. Tazza derives from the Italian trend for bowl fountains, often supported by putti caryatids, which actually looked more like mermaids to my mind. It seemed as if there was an energy rising up from their tails and through to the Tazza’s gurglings, outpourings and water tumbles, full of light, energy and life.

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Picture 2.  Another view. Both photographs by Fintan McDonnell.

I was minded of a recent dream series where I dreamt of mermaids for several nights in a row. The final dream contained a particularly intriguing set of images and the mermaids had transformed into a merman:

I was standing by a lake, watching a man swim towards me. When he reached the shore, he rose out of the water and I ‘realised’ he was a merman, not with a fish tail but with webbed hands and feet and fins on his back and on the backs of his legs. He lay down on his side by the lake’s edge. I sat down beside him, ‘knowing’ he had been sent to me ‘with a special message’. He told me he was ‘the man from Atlantis’ and though unspoken, I perceived his communication that he had ‘brought me a gift’.

I ‘knew’ it was a gift of knowledge of some sort, which I now interpret as an unveiling of self-knowledge, a connection with the unconscious well of the universal soul perhaps. I am not a trained Jungian, but have delved far and wide into Jung’s writings and those of many Jungian scholars, most recently Jean Raffa’s blog at  http://jeanraffa.wordpress.com/ and sense there are more meanings in this dream, meanings which I wonder might take a lifetime to unearth?

But the feeling of motivation, uplift and renewed purpose has stayed with me, even though I don’t really understand the dream’s content and I think it was this that re-awakened on encountering the fountain, and all fountains since. So my love affair with water continues, and an obsession with fountains has just begun! Thanks for visiting, and slaínte 🙂

The Wonders of Walking

As a recurrent sciatica sufferer, I have recently been engaged on a treatment programme that involves not only some pretty prohibitive restrictions (like NO SITTING!), but some very important types of exercise. One of these prescriptions gives me a chance to indulge one of my favourite pastimes – simply walking. Whether city street or country lane, walking is not only of physical benefit, it is also noted by many to induce a welcome meditative mood and an uplifting sense of invigoration.

Co-incidentally, I have found a wonderful book about walking, an inspiration, an encyclopaedia of all the historical and philosophical detail you could wish for and an engaging account of one individual’s walking experiences. The book is WANDERLUST by Rebecca Solnit and is a real treat – each time I read a passage I just want to get out and walk and think and then come home and write, write, write.

Solnit informs us that our ancestors evolved as bipedal hominids over three million years ago: one of the most charming images I’ve seen lately is that of a set of adult and infant fossilised footprints where the child seems to be running around while the adult walks in a straight line – nothing unknown there to modern humans!

It was via bi-pedalism and the consequent freeing of the upper limbs, that  a more advanced manipulation of the environment became possible, followed by bigger brains, greater intelligence, wider consciousness and diversity of culture. And so to walking, as it has acquired myriad meanings across human history and cultures.

According to Solnit, many of the great philosophers walked incessantly, especially Rousseau, whose eighteenth century writings helped inspire the French Revolution and who reportedly did much of his thinking on the hoof.

Think too of the marches of the unemployed in the 1930s, civil rights and anti-war walks of the 1960s and 70s, peace walks and Buddhist walkers of the present day.

One of the most enjoyable walks I had recently was with my family at The Giant’s Ring near Belfast. A dullish day, but everyone seemed in chirpy spirits and it had been several years since our last visit to this ancient site. The path cuts right through the earthwork circle, past the standing stones at its centre, along a wooded copse and over several drumlin-like hillocks, before emerging just above the village of Edenderry. I will never forget that walk, Orla clicking merrily with her camera, the older girls chatting with us and each other. The photographs helped preserve the mystical quality of the place too.  I cannot help but imagine other humans long gone, families and groups, walking to and from those stones, perhaps chanting a ritual song or lost in a reverie of belief and wonder.
 

The Giant's Ring Standing Stones. Picture by Orla

 

A stile on the Giant's Ring path. Picture by Orla.

 
To quote Solnit one last time,
 

 “Walking, ideally, is a state in which the mind, the body and the world are aligned, as though they were three characters finally in conversation together, three notes suddenly making a chord.”

Happy Walking 🙂

Michael Ehrhardt

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