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The Norwegian explorer Roald Amudsen said that “adventure is lack of planning”. I tend to disagree: adventure is opportunistic, and can, to a certain extent, be planned for. Often, when my wife and I are venturing down some trail, or following a designated route, we will often see a dirt path leading out into the unknown. Or it might be a break in the trees, leading to an opening that isn’t on the map. One of us will point to this alternative way, and in a mock-dramatic voice, exclaim “Adventure!”
My wife and I are not seasoned hikers. We enjoy the outdoors, and try to get out as much as possible, but we don’t schedule mammoth treks or all-day trips. An hour or two outside, amongst nature, in a soft breeze or under the sun, and we are happy enough. However, this doesn’t stop us from getting lost time to time. Perhaps it’s the non-conformist streak in each of us, the inability to totally follow the rules. Or perhaps we just want to discover something for ourselves, something out of the way and little explored, so that our experience differs from everyone else who visited the area that day.
Sometimes, we find an accidental shortcut, or we circle back on ourselves. Often, we’re wading through unkempt grass or a carpet of leaves and pine needles, keeping our eye out for anything ahead that looks like a tarmacked path. Rarely are we really concerned about where we are heading. In Northern Ireland, the parks and nature walks are pretty confined. We’ve never had to follow power lines for miles to find a remote farmhouse and hope that someone is in to tell us where on earth we are. Needless to say, if you are walking through a wide-open national park, you shouldn’t be taking this risk.
Only once or twice, have we had to resort to Google Maps to try and figure out where we are. The problem with that is sometimes it’s hard to determine where precisely you started from, especially if the car park isn’t on the map. And yet we’ve always enjoyed these extra excursions. Perhaps if each of us were on our own, it would be far more disconcerting. But being together, it feels impossible to get lost completely.
When it’s a calculated risk, the adventure is perhaps restricted, but rewarding nevertheless. We’ve come to dead ends, turned back against a herd of shifty-looking cows, come to thick overgrowth we’ve been unable to traverse through. But we’ve never felt aggrieved, or frustrated; it’s just part of experiencing the land for yourself. And when you do eventually get your back way to the car, you can tell yourself that the time was well spent, that you’ve been astounded by the inosculation of trees, the rare sight of a kingfisher, or the scent of wild garlic that you just wouldn’t have otherwise enjoyed.
…and there was you
and there was me, by sapling brooks
and flooded trees, asking why do
they bend toward the river’s heart.
I did not know; still do not horde
any witted answer in my apple cart.
And there was you
by a farm gate, looking for cows
I sensed were there, with slow footsteps
as our eye browsed the hill with care,
across the crest; some evidence
in the wire fence of cattle there.
We thought it best to turn back, lest
they grew disturbed.
And there was you
in the suburbs, and me with map
across my lap, with memory
losing compass, our direction
somewhat unsure; knew it was south
or maybe north. Now lost, alas,
but adventure secure. Walked on
until bearings gave correction.
Then turning back.
And there was you
with my rucksack, a simple snack
but sufficient for us ramblers.
Riverbank pause, then on we went
over the dales, through the briars
back to the old tumbledown house,
knowing we were now heading south.
Knowing that dark was half-a-day
away, but where was the car parked?
We did not care.