I went on yet another walk to the park, energetically pounding the 2.2 kilometre gravel path. I took in the trees and the birds, the dogs running off the leash, people gathered in small groups enjoying picnics, or hitting a tennis ball against the wall. I noted families cycling together.
It was the time of COVID. Victoria was not currently in lockdown, but half of Australia’s population was. Four million deaths from COVID worldwide in 18 months.
We had vaccinations now, so hope was afoot that there may be a way out of lockdown, fear and disease.
Walking had become a welcome repast during our four lockdowns. We had been permitted out of our homes for one, or two hours variously during the lockdowns. And although Victoria was now largely open, the habit of high utilisation of the parks continued.
It came to represent what could still be enjoyed: being outside in the sun, talking to a friend as we walked, pausing as a treat for a takeaway coffee.
This was the high point of the day. The rest of the day, spent at home, was centred on finding activities to lose oneself in…
I have always loved to daydream. Walking and daydreaming went well together. I recall daydreaming as a child. I used fantasy to imagine outcomes I desired, conversations I might have with people, both difficult and meaningful. I imagined adventures to feed my passion for experience and adventure, previously known through reading Enid Blyton books.
Perhaps it was daydreaming that had planted the seed in my mind that I might study Medicine: what if one day I could read and understand the medical journals on my father’s desk? (My father was a surgeon.) Was I smart enough? Dedicated enough? Enough?
I recall travelling overseas at 18 and taking long bus rides, gazing outside the window at new and exciting vistas. I observed people on the bus conversing and became involved in their stories and imagined plots involving the characters I had transiently witnessed. It fed my creativity and stimulated me to write short stories.
When my children travelled with us overseas I was frustrated that my teenage son was obsessed with his new iPod on the bus and showed no interest in looking out the window.
That was in 2003. It is 2021 now. And as I walk today, I see most people wearing ear pods. Some are speaking to a disembodied voice, others listening to podcasts or audiobooks. There are the walkers who text incessantly. They are all deprived of seeing the cockatoos and the rainbow lorikeets, or hearing the songs of the magpie, the common myna and the blackbird, or the occasional kookaburra.
I think to myself that it is the end of daydreaming. It feels like a loss. Less time to reflect, less time to know oneself and develop a weltanschauung (a particular philosophy or view of life), less time to devise opinions and responses, less time to foster creativity, and less time to appreciate the simple and beautiful things around us.
Perhaps this is one gift I found during the lockdowns in 2020 and 2021: slowing down and recalling the Art of Daydreaming…
As I walk, I wish to daydream about the end of COVID and the return of unfettered travel, adventure and social gatherings and affectionate greetings.
I wish to call out to people: cast aside the ear pods! Cast aside the phone! Walk with me and gaze around you. And don’t forget to smile and greet those you walk past.
A friendly greeting was very welcome during lockdown, a moment of conversation when you walked alone, a moment of kindness and connection.