Thursday, July 31, 2014

Walking Etiquette

On my birthday yesterday, we went to St. Ives (Cambridgeshire). Walking along the busy Market Street, past Oliver Cromwell's statue (he once lived there) I came to a green area beside the river. It is likely this is where John Wesley preached in 1774 where he noted in his journal he found hearers 'very well dressed yet well-behaved'.  I wondered about his past experiences with well-dressed people!

Moving on beyond the crowds milling around on the river bank,  I found a quiet path continuing on beside the river which eventually led into tranquility through ancient forests, meadows still rolling with medieval troughs and ridges from oxen ploughing, and glorious glimpses of sunlit countryside beyond. Occasionally, along my hour long walk I met walkers coming in the opposite direction.  Every time we approached each other, we looked each other in the eyes and greeted one another with a 'Hello' or 'Hi'.  The contrast with the crowds on Market Street could not have been greater.  I began looking out for exceptions. Surely not everyone walking that path would politely acknowledge me.  Well, true enough, several cyclists didn't ,and a group of young people ignored me.  But 99% of my journey was punctuated by smiles and cheery greetings.

It's something mysterious about country walking in Britain (and probably elsewhere too).  Begin to walk for the sake of enjoying a beautiful world and you seem to have more time for people too!  The very act of stepping out brings you into a world where people slow down enough to notice things...including other people slowing down to notice things. I resolved that I need to do some more of this mutual noticing!

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