It’s said that even the longest journey starts with a single step.
I used to work for a weight-loss company. One of the things the company encouraged all of its customers to do was to take more exercise in the form of walking. Customers were given a pedometer (a little gadget that clips on a belt or a waistband) so they could record how many steps they walked a day. As they lost weight and their fitness levels improved, they were encouraged to try to increase the number of steps they walked each week. Almost invariably, customers reported an increased feeling of wellbeing, not just from losing weight, but from the walking. Being outside and being physically active just made them feel good.
I wish I’d brought my pedometer. I am so enjoying walking round Benmore Botanic Garden and talking with visitors, that I totally forget how far and for how long I’ve been walking. It would have been really interesting to see how far I’d walked by the end of the project.
And walking round this garden certainly gives me a feeling of wellbeing. Every day I meet interesting people and every day I get to see different aspects, facets and moods of the garden. I’d like to say this residency is good for my health all round, but with such an ample supply of biscuits in the Benmore office I’m not sure that’s a claim I can make. (For other biscuit lovers out there, the biscuits often involve chocolate or ginger and I was introduced to the deliciousness of Empire biscuits for the first time last Saturday. I have Don to thank for that.)
Here’s a poem about an occassion when I experienced a double-espresso dose of the feel-good factor.
It’s like when you’ve been searching all night
for notes on a lecture you’re due to give
in Latin at the Albert Hall. An usher calls your name.
Bravely you venture onto the stage.
Now you are naked. Even so, you begin, extempore,
and the men-of-letters with their jewel-laden wives
are so stunned at your wit and originality
you can feel their envy.
I slide the white envelope across the desk.
(There is no demand for unmarked bills
or a plane to Bolivia.) It’s like hi-jacking
my opponent’s aggression,
using his own ill-intentioned momentum
to lift him smoothly over my hip. Such dismay
as I force his shoulders onto the mat. I bow.
Now it’s like waiting through the moonlit night
With Butterfly for Pinkerton, mouth dry,
heart in free-fall, though I know the score.
As the silence runs out of places to go
it is like (and I promise this is the final ‘it is like’)
being in a swing-boat, too small to pull the rope,
and my father is working us ever higher
through a maelstrom of coloured lights and music.
Galloping horses shake golden manes
and a clown on stilts hands out balloons
twisted cleverly into hearts and flowers.