Outside (au-dehors)

Sometimes, despite the fact that you don’t feel well, thoughts start tumbling over one another when you can’t sleep. Sleep becomes impossible. Blogging ensues …

Parc des Buttes Chaumont. Not my photo; once I have one, it’ll be on Flickr

A recent Facebook exchange included me mentioning that I had gone running (au Parc des Buttes Chaumont). The response to the running was, ‘why in the world were you running?!?!? were you being chased?’

Me:I was running to keep from becoming too fat. The French verb for ‘to get fatter’ is ‘grossir’. Je ne veux pas grossir.

E: ah, let it happen. become a gourmand!!

Me: The trouble with becoming a gourmand is that I don’t really want to die of a heart attack or anything like that.

E: have you ever seen a dead sasquatch. i haven’t. neither have the hundreds of quatch hunters out there. sasquatches don’t die. eat that pastry.

For the above to make sense, note well that I am a sasquatch. ‘Quatch’ for short. We proceeded to discuss baby pigeons, which I have seen where I run in Edinburgh. But that’s a different, yet related, story.

In my current way of living, I primarily go outside for two reasons: 1. Travel and 2. Fear of a Heart Attack Makes Me Run.

And I don’t really run that often, although the Parc des Buttes Chaumont is a good choice for it, as is the Union Canal back in Edinburgh.

This lack of outside is in contrast with when I was a child.

Childhood summers and weekends and Easter breaks were largely lived out of doors. For seven years, we lived on a property with 12 acres. We Hoskin children would vanish into the woods or swamp or even just the backyard for hours on end. There, we would fight monsters and each other, hunt frogs, construct a mini-golf course, construct forts, chase the donkey, wander aimlessly, play badminton as well as the dangerous excursions into lawn darts.

There was this meadow that over the years was slowly converting itself into forest, having formerly been pasture. With naught but children about to keep things under control, saplings and small bushes soon arose in the midst of the grass and cowpies that greeted us upon arrival. Jonathan invented a game whereby this was some sort of enchanted meadow, and we had to cross without touching any bushes, saplings, or thistles (thistles so big, so bad, so prickly they could beat you up). If so, I don’t really know what happened. You probably died; that’s how these things went. The bad guy, of course, was on the other side. And we would vanquish him.

Or I would ride my bike to Aaron’s place. I remember Aaron, Kiaran, and I went to this dam they had made once, on a farmer’s canal. It was very cool, and minnows could get caught in it. My memory tells me that the water was very clear. Also, we would go gopher hunting. I killed nothing. Aaron’s cat would eat our killings.

Or I would ride my bike into town. With Anthony, I would get up to all sorts of shenanigans in his back yard. Or wander around. Wander to Red Basket for slushes ($1 including GST). With Will and the other Ferreys, there would be lots of out-of-doors activity. The sandbox. Riding bikes around. Going to ‘Christopher’s Park’ or ‘The Dentist Office Playground’, or their grandma’s (where there was a pretty sweet willow tree). In the spring, when the run-off occurred, there would ensue walnut-shell boat races in the gutters — the sort of thing children raised in the foothills do.

We would go to the lake, as a family or with friends. I was part of the canoe club. Sometimes, we would take a drive into the more wilderness bits of the country and go for a hike. We would go camping in the summer.

I have always been bookish, but I also used to spend a lot of time out of doors. Now, I run maybe twice a week. In Edinburgh, I walk to New College, climbing the steps by the Castle. In Paris, I walk to the Métro.

Where is the adventure? Where is the wild? I think the wild is here in these urban settings, their blocks of flats on all sides, the shops on the ground floor. There are the parks, the canals, the rivers, the cemeteries. There are the trains that take you beyond the city, to a wilderness less tame.

I should avail myself of these. Reading Virgil’s Eclogues and Georgics is not the way to draw nigh to the natural. Getting my nose out of a book on occasion is …

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