Walking with Worry

“There is new life in the soil for every man. There is healing in the trees for tired minds and for our overburdened spirits, there is strength in the hills, if only we will lift up our eyes. Remember that nature is your great restorer.”

Calvin Coolidge, speech, July 25, 1924

Step outside, reluctant and heavy with the weight of worry.

Take a breath and begin to put one foot in front of the other. The gravel crunch’s underfoot and we watch our feet in action. We pass by the hedging, through the gateway and make a turn to our left, all without taking our eyes off the ground. The deserted country road lies before us. We bring our hand to our head, hoping the contact might release some tension. Left, right, left, right. On we trudge, the weight of our hanging head bearing down on our neck. And yet we remain distracted and keep our eyes firmly on our feet. Every now and then, our foot catches a loose rock on the old road and our eyes follow as its kicked ahead.

Heavy, heavy minded.

Our head full to the brim with potential what-ifs and could-be-catastrophes. Constant internal debate over possibilities and maybes, persistent replays of the worst outcomes. Our reel has gotten away from us and is stuck in a loop. With all this noise we fail to see anything around us. We cannot see the sun shining in the clear blue sky or feel the new touch of warmth in the breeze. As if with a message, a loud series of short, sharp calls suddenly come from overhead.

We look up startled, and for the first time.

There, on a blanket of blue, hovers a great bird with wings spread open. Motionless, he does not flap in urgency, but bobs up and down with the gentle wind. What a curious and staggering sight, to see a bird frozen in the sky. A Kestrel, more than likely, pausing to map the terrain down below. The sky, we now notice, is the deepest blue, with small and scattered pure white puffs of cloud. We blink our eyes in adjustment to the bright scenes and things start coming into focus.

The wide vast landscape is bathed in the pure light of sunshine.

The rolling hills are on full display and are the lushest green. With our head still raised, we notice that the trees are almost ready to begin blooming again, with hosts of buds running up and down their branches. Their leaves are a deep and vibrant olive green, replacing the beaten, crunchy tawny- coloured ones of only a few weeks ago. Still walking, we put out our hand and allow it to run through the high reeds on the edge of the narrow bóithrín. For the first time, we feel the heat of the sun on our face, with the soft touch of the grass running through our fingertips.

Without even meaning to, we take a big, long breath in, filling our lungs, and another long breath out.

With our head up and eyes forward, our mind is lifted momentarily from our worry. The physical space around us provides some space away from the repetitive sequence of thoughts that were flooding our mind. Immersing ourselves in the miracle of a sunny day on a quiet road, the worry is lighter, we can breathe a little easier and some calm is awarded, with the call of a Kestrel lingering in the sky.

Frederic William Burton, 1840,  In Joyce Country
Frederic William Burton, 1840, In Joyce Country
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