There are walks and there are walks;

the big difference is that on some we talk

but not on others. On some (like those with

brother Jon, well content resident expat of

what was once the exotic, despotic and

generally chaotic empire that sat uncomfortably

astride East and West), the rarity of their occurrence

demands that we speak – so we chit the chat and

shoot the breeze; we externalise and so reveal

the latest private small talk, tomorrow’s public sleaze.


And there are walks which are so much more,

walks which are as choreography to the ballroom floor,

the essential design and the precise plotting of which is

required to be inch perfect and so assist

the dancers in deploying to best effect their

highly tuned bodies and dovetailed heads. Yet

I am no dancer, my body has not the strength or skills

to answer the calls of the thousands of artists whose

visionary combinations of scores of steps continue

until night cedes sky to dawn with nothing left to lose.


My own steps do not bear comparison;

they may be likened to the dancers’ only

insofar as my walks, like a dance, tend to start

and end at the same place. But the visual content

of the dance itself, already beautiful through nature,                                    

may be enhanced by nurture’s improvisation: catch

the evening moment when multiple horizons are

kissed by a dozen blushing, mixed pink brushes,

all daubed with grey and gold, and I realise that complementarity

is not the same as, and does not speak for, hierarchy;

and that hierarchy makes promises to none.


Walking daily the paths and trails through

deans and dales close by my home for thirty years

has taught me much about the ties that attach to

limbs and leaves, to trunk and torso, also the links between

you and me and those whom we are, we think,

meant to love or supposed to fear. Over time,

we lose all trace of dry tuition, of formal, cloying

contractual conditions; we step back and observe

the work done: an understanding, of a kind, of

parents and good friends and (dare I say it,

for the work is incomplete) of the flora and fauna –

which I have largely written down that I might convey it:


each forest houses tens of thousands of trees,

each tree in turn a thousand limbs, each limb

at least a million leaves – each one able to grow

or be particular as to the depths (or direction) of

our winter paths through deep and freshly fallen snow.

But it is not so much the adventure pregnant in

every cloudless sky or the rush of a swollen river

through the parched riverbed nearby. For me, it’s for

the thousand times I’ve quietly walked these dozen tracks,

unbiased (save when bluebells light the glade or heather lies

mauve across the heath), each redolent with the phrase…


“I nothing lack if I am His”, prised from the staple hymn

“The King of Love my Shepherd is” and the word “His”

denoting the said King (God). Odd perhaps that a hymn

from my dim and distant past (and the characters in it)

are deemed to deserve such musical attention but I offer

no apology for humming, or mumbling, a hymn (or any part) even

without a clear and witnessed foray into a church to validate it.

In any case, we do not deal in dividing lines between

walks with talk and those without, nor ideas for caging voice;

I wrest such from the ne’er-speak-wells, from the spoilers of

baroque denouement, from the authors of multiple choice.


Let’s take a breath to remind ourselves of

the intended primary beneficiaries of this clumsy missive

and why. (My task was set when my guard was down –

asleep perhaps? If so, I will thank the leaver of the message

and encourage him similarly to postpone his postman’s

further responsibilities!). As for beneficiaries, I wanted only

to restore belief in the idea that peace is preceded by

quiet contemplation and an unimpeded, steady flow of

oxygen through the body and brain, a message to all who keep

a toe in the door (perhaps a little more) as regards

opportunities to shore up their inner strength,

their physical and mental core, their engines of life.

For me, it seemed straightforward common sense.


And yet it is so much more. So much so that,

without fear or care for ridicule, I hereby out,

by blanket revelation, all that might conceivably

be viewed as dangerous liaisons, major or minor,

all I have said or whispered above about where and

what is love. It is true that I do give all I can to

commune with the trees; I see their ways, I seek their wisdom.

And were I a religious man, I would offer up to the padre

my failings, in the name of confession, beneath the shady

box trees in the yard; but were I not, the words might be the same

but in the copse across the meadow, down the chalky track

or, in summer, under the single copper beech.

I so consign myself into their hands. “I nothing lack ….”.








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Greg Freeman

Mon 4th Jan 2021 14:27

I love walking poems, Peter, and they are particularly important now ... but there is so much more here than that. So much material for thought. Thanks for sharing.

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