Walking Eyes Wide Open


Last week I spent the day in a village kicking my heels.

To pass the time, I decided to take a walk.

A long one.

I decided this with not a little trepidation. This is England in January we’re talking about.

It was dark, cold and wet. I wasn’t sure if the two fleeces I’d brought from California would be enough to keep me warm.

But I set off anyway.

As I walked around, I was amazed at what I saw.

A war memorial commemorating those villagers lost in wars over the past century. Large brick houses with imposing facades, long sweeping drives, the occasional electronic swing gate.

The backbone of the village – former farm laborers cottages, several rows of them, the church with gravestones dating back to 1773 and a peeling noticeboard outside announcing the times of each service.

There was the pub, formerly a thatched cottage, with its finely painted sign a piece of art in itself and, of course, the village hall where the Women’s Institute and playgroups for preschoolers would carefully avoid meeting along with all manner of classes from yoga and natural birthing to cycling proficiency.

The elementary school and village pond completed the set piece while bridleways and public footpaths snaked out from the village across the surrounding English countryside like spokes in a badly mashed wheel.

I followed for a time, the postman.

There he was, riding his bike one-handed. It was so cold I wasn’t sure how he could hold the mail with his other ungloved hand. He would jump off his bike, run up to each house, drop in the mail (in England, slots for mail are located in the front door) then get back on his bike to cycle to the next clutch of houses. If there was a long driveway, he would cycle up, post the mail and ride back down.

I always wanted to be a postman.

Seemed a good way to get exercise, fresh air, peace, quiet and satisfaction in life. It still does if you get a route such as this one.

The only other people I saw were the trash collectors and their lorry, picking up rubbish and recycling throughout the village. Finally, they couldn’t resist yelling out to the woman that kept passing them on their route around, making some good-natured comment about what a lot of walking I was doing in a way that is peculiarly British.

I have never been called out to like that in the US and would be shocked if I was.

Eventually I returned back to base, the cold long forgotten if unchanged. My cheeks were rosy and my clothes quite damp but I was full of wonder at the new knowledge I’d discovered.

Knowledge that had been at my fingertips for decades.

On my walk, I ventured to parts I’d never been to before. I’d noticed for the first time scenes I’d passed a hundred times. I had spent hours and hours in this village as a child.  Driven around it many times as an adult.

And never noticed any of it.

Have you visited a place a hundred times and then suddenly noticed it? What is it that finally makes the difference? Let me know in the comments!

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Darlene January 27, 2011 at 2:46 am

The city I lived most of my life is surrounded by mountains.
My home is in a neighborhood surrounded by trees.
At sunset I’d hear the birds going to their home (the trees) to sleep.
At sunrise I’d hear them waking up. Their sound was like an alarm clock.
All this was outside my door.

Two years ago I moved to a different country.
Noticed something was missing: no mountains, no trees; the people are different.
In this new city, I became aware of a large variety of birds

Our daily routines prevent us from noticing our surroundings.
We take them for granted.
We aren’t aware of the pleasure they give us.
Changing our environments makes us notice these differences.
Change is good.


Alison Golden January 30, 2011 at 7:32 am

You are right, Darlene, that our daily routines prevent us from noticing what goes on all around. It’s good to be jolted out of those routines from time to time. Thanks for stopping by! 😉


Mary E. Ulrich
January 27, 2011 at 4:45 am

Alison, what beautiful descriptions. With this blog, you are like the mailman (mailperson). From England, you send your message to my mailbox in Ohio and other places.

As I was reading, I could feel myself relax and enjoy your visual images. Your words were a wonderful postcard of the village.
Mary E. Ulrich recently posted..Edit Historical Videos for YouTubeMy Profile


Alison Golden January 30, 2011 at 7:33 am

Hi Mary!
I’m glad it was relaxing for you – and I take your point about the mail*person.* I just couldn’t bring myself to write postperson. Doesn’t sound right. 🙂


Sharon January 27, 2011 at 5:03 pm

Alison I had to laugh when I saw that you used the word lorry. I can just see my Nana calling a truck a lorry. My mom called a truck a lorry the other day and both of us had a good giggle. The word sounds peculiar when you have not used it in a while….I bet our fellow Californians have no idea what the word even means.


Alison Golden January 30, 2011 at 7:35 am

I naturally wrote ‘lorry’ without thinking. It *is* a funny word but when I go to the UK, it’s like a switch turns on in my brain, my language, my ability to drive on the left, even my mannerisms immediately convert as soon as the plane touches down. Weird.

Apparently my accent takes an hour or so to revert back though. 😉


Jennifer January 27, 2011 at 5:21 pm

How wonderful that you were able to see it all with new eyes. It all sounds lovely to me!


Alison Golden January 30, 2011 at 7:39 am

It is lovely, Jennifer. I never tire of it. Even when I lived there, if I was at a loose end on a Sunday afternoon, I would take my car and drive around the countryside. But walking clearly gives that extra attention. Thanks for commenting ! 🙂


Kane Augustus January 28, 2011 at 11:16 am

Hello, Alison-

Just thought I’d drop you a note from Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. I stumbled across your blog while rummaging through comments at Mark’s Daily Apple. I like to click on people’s names when they show up highlighted because they often have interesting website; especially at MDA, it seems.

Anyway, I just thought I’d leave a comment to say “hello”, and let you know that I think your blog is excellent: witty, catchy, personal, and very easy to relate to. For example, my wife, like you, is an INTJ (a highly expressed one, in fact), whereas I am a highly expressed INTP. And believe me, that difference of ‘J’ and ‘P’ can lead to some really wild differences of perception and opinion.

In any case, you have a great blog set up here, and I’ve linked to it on my site, St. Cynic.

Kane Augustus recently posted..Defending Ricky GervaisMy Profile


Alison Golden January 30, 2011 at 7:46 am

Hi Kane:

Thank you for your kind comments. MDA fans are an eclectic bunch 🙂

I am very different from my spouse – we only share one reference. But because I am an ‘I’ I tend not to get ‘shouty’ about them and we can have calm debates. My big challenge is raising the issues in the first place. Presumably because you are both ‘innies’ your disagreements are debated rather calmly too?

Thanks for stopping by. 🙂


Kane Augustus January 30, 2011 at 10:56 am

Hello, Alison-

No, our debates are not always calm. There are some things we really just don’t see eye-to-eye on. And when that has been the case, we have had our flare-ups. However–and this is not to be cliche, or enforce cynical stereotypes–when those flare-ups do happen, it is usually because I have missed something, or have mis-thought something. My wife is much more intelligent than I am, so she can usually furnish our disagreements with more insight. So when that happens, she’s usually ahead of me, and I’m growing more and more irrate because I think I have a point, and don’t feel as if I’m being heard.

The truth is though, my wife has already anticipated my points and has gone beyond them. Which is why she is usually right, and I’m usually frustrated–only when it comes to those “flare-up” debates, however. Other than that, when we have a points of divergence, we’re able to walk through our differences easily and calmly.

Between the two of us, my wife is the more introverted. So, like you, her challenge is “raising the issues in the first place.” One of my challenges is patience: I’d don’t like there being issues at all.

Kane Augustus recently posted..Big WordsMy Profile


Galit Breen
January 29, 2011 at 5:45 am

Love it, Alison! So, so true. The cold. The long walk. The “new” sightings. I feel that way with my kids- their eyes=fresh insights. Great post!


Alison Golden January 30, 2011 at 7:47 am

Kids! Yes! They are the perfect walking companions. I learn *so* much from them.


January 31, 2011 at 11:49 pm

Absence makes the heart grow fonder applies here too. It enables you to see things things with a fresh perspective.
Jack recently posted..Writers Write RightMy Profile


Alison Golden February 2, 2011 at 7:03 pm

Yes, that’s true. We see with new eyes after a break.


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