Going for walks has become one of my preferred activities over the past few years as I struggled with my identity and questioned my significance in this world. It feels like such an escape to immerse yourself in nature and in society with the sole purpose of observing everything around you and reflecting upon your life as a whole.
Panmure Island Beach, Prince Edward Island
One of my favorite places to walk is on the beach. I love listening to the steady crashing of the waves against the shore while my dog runs ahead and splashes in the water. The gentle sand between my toes helps me feel connected with the earth. Small rocks scatter - all made up of different sizes and textures spread along the shore line. I enjoy hearing the sounds of children laughing in the distance. The warm breeze brushes my hair against my face when I turn to watch them playing and building castles. Kids seem so care free. At this point in my walk I decide that my goal for the week is to simplify my life. Here I am surrounded by a gorgeous landscape, and I’m barely able to appreciate it because my mind is else where. I’m thinking about some social event I have to attend next week or the bad mark I received on a paper last term. But as I watch the yellow sun transform into a pale pink sky I can’t help but be grounded back to reality. I watch my feet step into the imprinted sand marks left by other people just like me. This reminds me I’m not alone. In the poem Hinterland, Alison Pick captures the feeling of comfort that lies within human connection in line 13 when she writes about, “the weight of being human where other humans have been."
Murray River, Prince Edward Island
Another place I like to walk and adventure is in the forest of my hometown. I’m familiar with some areas that have small nature paths through the woods which allow for great thinking space and fresh air. By wandering through strong trees and wild flowers, I am amazed by the authentic beauty of our world. As I watch a butterfly drift through the sky above me I consider how liberating it must be to travel without budget or boundary. Breathing in the fresh air brings me clarity to view life as a gift rather than a chore. Irving Layton’s poem There Were No Signs, illustrates the self discovery that has the potential of blooming during a reflective activity such as a walk. His poem begins with this idea as it reads, “By walking I found out where I was going."
Eagles View Golf Course, Prince Edward Island
Looking deeper into The Hinterland by Alison Pick I realized that this poem really resonated with me and my personal struggles. This twenty six line free verse poem begins by describing a walk. The first five lines of the poem seem to suggest being trapped in deep thought and pushing onward through adversity. This first two lines read, "I walk as far as I can then farther, past", and I think these lines clearly illustrate the pushing of boundaries and figurative limits we set for ourselves. The following six lines offer a sense that the speaker is never satisfied with themselves and that they often feel insignificant as pick writes, "Boulders, tall grass, shrubs I can't name, birds I can't name, the ocean." It's easy to feel small and of little value when you are standing beside a large body of water, consumed and drowning in your own thoughts and questioning your self worth. Yet, the ocean can also bring us to the realization since the world is so big we will never be alone. Lines twelve through fourteen of the poem read, "Bottles, I know. Condoms, I know. And the weight of being human where other humans have been." This is a reminder that other people have walked down the same path, and that they have moved on considering they are no longer present.
The poem goes on to describe the "back of the sea like one light of thought," and a ledge in the rock farther out. For me this is the turning point in the poem. The speaker comes to the conclusion that thoughts are like waves. It's easy to become consumed by them, however, if you let them go they will always pass. When a wave hits the shore it can transform into foam and settle. Similarly, we can let our thoughts transform us and help us grow if we choose to let them go and learn from them rather then wallowing in them. The speaker of the poem sees the ledge in the rock but he doesn't move toward it. Instead, he turns around and heads for home with his hands in his pockets. There are feelings of surrender and retreating in this part of the poem as dark living figures are referenced "bending to drink at the silent pool". This seems to be an acceptance of struggle and also a longing for healing.
In the final two lines of The Hinterland the poem reads, "If a gap exists at all, it's there I might have slipped through" What I gathered from this ending is that sometimes we fall into holes in our own minds. In reality they don't even exist but they can make us feel trapped and isolated. I also think that the use of the word "slipped" is trying to point at the unbalanced nature of the situation. When I think of someone slipping I think of them fighting to stay on their feet even though they are struggling. Rather than just falling to the ground, the use of the word "slipped" at the end of the poem leaves a sense of hope for improvement in the future.