The Hermitage Anew

This morning I went for a walk through the Hermitage.

I often do when I’m feeling hemmed in and cranky. I’ve probably walked it a hundred times.

This little woodland nature reserve, replete with babbling stream and mossy Hobbiton-esque rocks, has been my reprieve ever since I moved to this city.

It’s my perfect mix of curated park (well, there is a couple of benches and a path) and nonchalant (the riverbeds and woods are perfectly lush and wild).

And this morning, in the glorious sunshine and bluebells, I had the pricking tickle of tears in my eyes.

It really is goodbye.

*

There are many windy ways through these woods, and today I took a new path, all fresh and soft mud. I felt newness was in the air I suppose.

But this new path was an imposter; dead-ending into the water a good quarter mile from where I’d last diverged.

I thought about turning back but the main lane of the park was just on the other side of the water. Surely I could breach it?

I stood on the bank for a long time.

Cold spring water rushing over slipper rocks might not end well.

I was actually rather afraid, checking over my shoulder for the sounds of strangers who might see my stupid predicament.

And so I asked myself,

What the hell am I so afraid of?

Getting my socks wet was the answer.

And also, my pants. I don’t want to walk home wet and cold.

Well, what can we do about that?

[I often revert to treating myself like a toddler when I am at my most natural]

Take them off, I guess?

This felt so foreign. So weirdly dangerous.

So inappropriate.

Nothing gets the squinty two-eye in my neighbourhood like being a) unpredictable and b) inappropriately dressed. Barefoot in the woods? Scandal!

But nowhere is this brook more than a few meters wide, and never more than thigh deep. What kind of danger did I think I was in? Were the granny police going to book me?

And as soon as bare feet met fallen log, I woke up.

Somehow, jumping in to uncertain waters broke me free of the staid, conventional, safe and strictured.

This stream has always been my haven from the fusty, dusty city. Now, at the last, the cleansing was literal.

As I stood on jagged stones rubbed soft with slimy algae I laughed at myself.

Who is this person, afraid of damp socks and strangers glares?

Not a year ago I forded mountain-deep white water rapids that could have killed me, and on a bridge Indiana Jones himself might have crossed.

And I refuse to give up that girl, no matter how long I have lived in Morningside.

And my goodness, do I feel better for the adventure.

Carpe Diems are always worth having.

me kyrgyz rapids park

PS, That photo at the top is Richard Webb’s. I found it on geograph.org.uk via Creative Commons. Thanks Richard!

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