The English have a lovely way of phrasing things. One of my favorite public signs on this Coast to Coast trip has been “Mind your head,” meaning, “Pay attention so you don’t hit your head!” However, after eight straight days of hiking through the English countryside, I’ve come up with my own interpretation of this phrase: pay attention to the world around you.
It was mostly my father who taught me to mind the nature around me. Taking walks he’d point out the different animal tracks; the lone scarlet leaf on a branch of a tree; the two-note whistle of the chickadee; the furry caterpillar crawling in the grass; the billowy shapes of white cumulus clouds… I could go on and on about all the “ordinary” things he showed me–turning each one of them into the extraordinary. Of course, I didn’t realize it at the time, but he was really teaching me to “mind my head”– to appreciate the gifts and beauty of every day.
On this 192-mile trek, there has been plenty of time for my traveling partner, Gloria and I to pay attention to nature. We take time to stop and look around at the magnificent green valleys, the rippling waters of a lake, the force of a mountain waterfall and the undulating hills preparing us for the climb ahead. And perhaps to Gloria’s chagrin, I’m also pointing out the large black slugs on our path, the iridescent and odd-looking mushrooms, the decapitated sheep’s head, the dead mole in the middle of the trail, and the unusual striations in a boulder. On long days with grueling, steep peaks to conquer, sometimes it’s all I can do to pay attention to every step and mind my feet. After all, a lack of focus could easily result in getting on the wrong path, or slipping and falling down a rocky incline, or stumbling over a stream and getting wet shoes. OR stepping in a big pile of cow poop and sliding downhill trying not to fall backwards into it–not that I’ve ever done that.
Um. Okay. That was yesterday.
I’ll keep working on it.