Today's walk felt like hope embodied, the whole countryside effervescent with the promise of the coming spring.

The walk is a circuit, a three mile round trip including several 11% gradients. I try to do it several times a week for 'my health.'Needless to say, it has become another chore on the daily list in which I take personal responsibility for maintaining a healthy body and a healthy mind so I don't become a liability to family, friends, and the NHS.

Truthfully, almost anyone else would love the circuit. Knowing this, I also feel guilty about not giving this very available blessing the appreciation it deserves.

Today, buoyed by the jubilant bird song, the healing balm of the sun warmed air, I imagined giving my best friend a guided tour.

Come out through the cottage gate, turn right and head down the first small hill past the yellow patch of daffodils that marks the turn off to my farmer neighbors' housel The T junction a few yards down is the next milestone, with the ancient little signs slightly askew, point towards various surrounding villages. Next on the tour is a field filled with new lambs and large woolly ewes presiding over their young. Past thw award winning garden, pretty much hidden from view but as I peak through the hedgerow I can see they are out there already, digging, moving, planting.

Across the 'look-out' now, a narrowing of the road into a ledge, overseeing a patchwork vista of soft greens, rolling hills and grazing sheep. This is quintessential rural Wales and it always catches my breath.

Down the 11% gradient now and there are a few primroses nestled in the banks. Just as I turn right into the next lane at the bottom of the hill, one of the 'boys' from the house on the corner, says hello. He is currentlyr resting on a log. The three boys are in their fifties now, living with their 85 year old mother. This is the notorious family of the neighborhood. Not so long ago, one of the three sons took exception to a county council ruling about the family fences. He chased one of the bureaucrats with a cross bow and managed to set fire to the company car. He was apprehended for a period of time. I quite like their cordial greeings on my regular trak.

Now the lane slopes gently downward, bound on both sides by tall hedgerows. Everything is dormant.  But I know from 14 years of passing through that soon all growth will be a vibrant green, will roses will appear. Hazelnut pods will follow. I will eye their ripening carefully, my harvest beaten every time by the cunning of the resident squirrels.

A right turn onto the bigger road now and straight past Douglas' farm. All manner of wounded and well converge here. The three legged dog Martha co-exists with the doves, the Indian Runner ducks, the geese and a field full of Alpaca sheep. Inevitably, one or two of these long necked friends hang over the side of the fence and depending on how out of breath I am I stop and say 'hi'. I am now facing the worst of the worst, the final hill on my homeward journey. There is a certain spot on this hill where, no matter how fit I think I am, at this point I am sure I am dying. I have tried all sorts of tricks to alleviate the pain and suffering-only looking at the ground directly in front of me, walking zig zag, looking a little ahead but not too far ahead. Slowing down, speeding up. No.   Its still a test to be endured. Every time. One foot in front of the other takes me to the crest and sometimes suddenly, sometimes more gradually, the weight of my own body lightens.

The last lap takes me past the big tree on the left with the bronze coloured leaves and then a left turn brings me back onto my lane. The final hill an I stagger or saunter back through the gate.

A small shift in perspectiv changed my relationship with the circuit today. For me, the shift was paying attention to the rich and varying detail of my circuit walk. For you, it might have been more attention to the big picture, to patterns and relationships you could see. That we are able to shift our ways of seeing things gives me hope.

What is hope? Snyder (2002) an academic who has studied hope extensively says that it is a convergence of goals, pathways to get there, and agency- the personal capacity to take the right actions. For me, the meaning of hope is simple. Trust in a positive future and belief that I can do something about it. The good news is that hope can be learned. So my circuit walk today has been a journey of hope.

Here is an approach to shifting perspectives, a way to harvest hope from journeys. I learned this process from my friend, the American writer Marsha Sinetar. I don't think she will mind if I pass it on to you. A journey could be driving in your car or taking the underground to work. It could be going for a walk, or undertaking a task routine or otherwise. Imagine your journey as unfolding a desired way of being. It could be a life with less stress, or more clarity about future direction, better relationships. Set the intention and keep notes on the following:

  • How did you initially approach the task?
  • How did you hold or keep your mind? Thought patterns and self talk. Did you notice any alterations in breathing or body language?
  • Notice any uplift in mood, energy or alertness as a result of your efforts?
  • Notice any shifts in interpersonal behaviour, conversation differences?
  • Anything else?
  • What did you experience and learn from the process?

And finally, here are some of my favourite quotations on hope, journeys and shifting perspectives:

We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.  T.S. Eliot

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.  Marcel Proust

Heroes take journeys, confront dragons, and discover the treasure of their true selves. Carol Pearson.

 

Snyder, C.R. (2002) Hope theory: rainbows of the mind. Psychological Inquiry. 13, 4. 249-275.