Saturday, 23 August 2014

time off, busy, sowing, walking, godstow, binsey, guard against depression, good handle, binsey

Taking some time off because the library closes during the last week in August‎ - though not as much time off as I should take, perhaps. There's marking to do and I want to catch up on one or two library matters. Working from home, however, with space to think, will be quite fun, I suspect.

Spent an hour on the allotment earlier, harvesting courgettes and runners and planting Black Spanish Round winter radishes, a little more rhubarb chard and some miner's lettuce and Pak Choi.

The sun was warm, the light pale but intensely sharp and the wind steady and stronger than I'd expected. Poor runners are taking a battering.

Read an article in the Times on walking and how much good it does you. For example:

‎'As well as the physical benefits, walking can improve thinking skills and boost creativity. Stanford University psychologists asked volunteers to walk on a treadmill in a room that contained nothing except a desk. Before and during the exercise they completed tests of creativity. In almost every case, their creativity increased by about 60 per cent.'

Walking also helps you cope with stress and wards off depression, I would add. In fact, I was thinking about these effects yesterday morning, when I walked from Godstow to Binsey, across Port Meadow and on to work (photos of Godstow Abbey and the Thames path near Binsey above).

This is a walk I can only do before work in August when there's little traffic on the A40 and the bus gets to the outskirts of Oxford well before 8 am.

‎It's also a walk I've been doing from time to time since 1982. It was a walk I did again and again when I was working as a land agent and studying hard in the evenings in order to try for Oxford. A time when I was excited by what I was learning but also one when I was still haunted by much that had happened in my childhood and was struggling to make sense of it.

Yet the act of walking was as therapeutic as it was an activity that seemed to encourage contemplation. I think the exercise was a kind of self-medication. A forum for thinking through difficult memories that had an inbuilt guard against depression, maybe, because the beauty of the walk would steam into my consciousness and lift my spirits, no matter how hard the subject I was thinking about.

There is, of course, irony in the fact that I am walking this way again, still, thirty years later, making sense of the events from childhood that fed into the relentless stream of events that haunted my adult life, making so little sense, till everything was exposed in 2010.

There is also an echo here of comments I made about the therapeutic value of walking in the precursor to this blog in 2009 - see Landscapes

Still, I'm happy to say that yesterday I enjoyed the walk and felt that I had a good handle on the past.

There are also such good associations whe‎n walking past the poplars near Binsey. For my Oxbridge exam I had to write a critical appreciation of Gerard Manley Hopkins' poem Binsey Poplars. Years later I was married in Binsey church.

Meantime, I loved seeing the straw in the harvested cornfields when cycling earlier.

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