Onwards, with nothing (/everything)

Tonight, I sat on a bench, and the bench itself sat perfectly parallel to the road, which ran parallel to the community pavilion building, which sat parallel to the playing grounds, which sat parallel to the river, which ran parallel to the railway tracks in the distance. I stared out towards them in the dark and waited for the passenger trains to race across my horizon – I caught two travelling south into Stirling proper and beyond, and then the much faster northbound service, headed perhaps to the Tayside coast or up to Inverness. Much closer, cars and cyclists and runners passed me on the road. My ass was wet on the bench and my hands reeked of the rubber cement that I’d used to patch a puncture on my bicycle tire. My head was in tatters, and I scarcely knew why.

Yesterday, I dumped half of my belongings into the clothing bank at the fire station. I felt immense, and still do. I don’t own much anyway, owing to a base character makeup of frugality and non-commitment, and when I’d moved up here in the first place, I’d abandoned half of what I’d owned then as well. I now own roughly a quarter of what I did three months ago, and the ultimate dream of whittling down my possessions into a single bag doesn’t seem quite as far-fetched as it did then.

I’ve been wondering how long I’ll stay in Stirling, and it’s becoming increasingly clear to me that it likely won’t be much longer. When is it appropriate to leave? I’ve got my eye on the Hebrides, on Dundee, on Aberdeen, on Kirkwall, but how do I get there? How do I stay there? The logistical distance between where I am and where I want to be always seems insurmountable and the restlessness builds and builds.

I feel sick and nervous. Suffocated and frustrated.

And so on.

And so, as it goes, I thought too much about the future and stormed out of my apartment, setting off towards the open air and the open arms of a panic attack. I thought too much about the words, and a heavy palpitation pounded in my chest; a thick, torrid thump that reminded me of the physicality of my blood and my body. “This is fine,” I told myself, capable now of coping with such sensations, and I sat down to stare out towards the trains until the January air sank through my coat and I began to feel cold again in the winter mist. I took the long way home, joining the river at the footbridge where it veers away from the tracks and towards the high street. And passing over it on the main road, I thought I spied a heron through the dark, standing stock-still on the edge of an ait. I called my dad to tell him about it. I told my mother that I wanted nothing more than to live out of my backpack and head elsewhere. And they said to me, 220 miles to the south, “why not?”

Why not?

 

Surmountable & insurmountable inclines

I’ve been here eleven days and all of my time has been spent in one of two ways – either loitering behind the counter at the coffee shop that allows me to pay rent (or rather, the coffee shop that allows me to be here) or with my ass glued to the saddle, pounding my way over the road in a manic attempt to see it all, to understand my landscape, to absorb everything as quickly as I am physically able. But late last week, I rode down through some farmland behind my house,and I took a wrong turn and ended up on an incline that my legs just couldn’t respond to. But I pushed my bike to the top, and when I got there, I caught sight of a Trossachs peak, just visible between the rolling hills that lined the long road I was standing on. Snow had fallen the night before and the sun was heading down and this mountain sprouted up in magnificent pink, one million miles away; almost close enough to touch but far too far for my legs to carry me to. Bitterly frustrated with my lack of stamina, I got back onto my bike and turned away from it all, racing back down towards the floodplain and dreaming that I’d get better, get stronger, go farther… eventually.

But in the couple of months that I’ve been cycling, I’ve neglected my feet as a means of legitimate transportation. Yet they’ve carried me much farther than my bicycle; miles upon miles, through cities, countries, continents. And on and on. So, earlier this week, given the opportunity to get away from the coffee house for a day, I set out alone for the hills behind the Bridge of Allan and I walked for four hours until the callouses on my feet – untried and untested for so long – had hardened to the point of agony. And here we are.

I’ve been disappointingly wordless for eleven days, but here’s the next best thing, from the hills:

stirling-web-9stirling-web-12stirling-web-8stirling-web-10stirling-web-11stirling-web-21stirling-web-20stirling-web-15stirling-web-17stirling-web-19