I'm not good in shopping malls.
Usually, I notice the subtle signs of mental discombobulation early on, such as a sensation of pressure on the shoulders, low mood, imitating a snarling moose and shouting "I'll eat your radiator!" at buses that get too close. On a positive note these barely visible signals allow me to take steps to ameliorate the effects of such stressors, using the time honoured technique of going for a walk.
For me, nothing resets whatever it is I have instead of a soul like a walk in some woods. For this reason, I found myself wandering through a forested area a few miles from my home, on a very wet and cold November day, togged up in full winter gear and touting the contemporary miracle that is a thermal mug full of coffee. It's quite near the local city-ette and so usually very popular with all sorts of visitors from dog-owners to Nordic walkers to people who just seem to sit in their cars with other people from other cars presumably to pursue some common interest about car interiors, but today all was quiet.
Unfortunately, heavy rains and saturated grounds had contrived to turn these particular woods into a quagmire, so instead of the sense filling, wide eyed experience I was expecting as I strode through autumnal glades, I spent a couple of hours mud-skiing down brown slopes, shlopping through oozing marsh and wading in boggy rivulets, my focus kept on the few feet of sloshing swamp in front of me where there used to be a path.
At one point, my trusty boots (Peter Storms, £50, eight years ago) decided that now was a good time to relinquish their grip on planet Earth, and I glided effortlessly into some brambles and nettles with a frictionless efficiency that would have been the envy of material scientists the world over.
It was great!
Admittedly, it was not the ultimate in relaxing perambulations, but it was invigorating. The inevitable falls resulted in generally soft, squishy and pain-free landings, and there was no-one there to witness me plonking myself down on my arse, which means woods are a safe haven from schadenfreude. Unless the squirrels are pointing and laughing. Even stopping to remove a thorn with my handy Swiss Army tweezers gave me a sense of completed satisfaction.
And it was scenic. From the utterly glorious explosions of amber that decorated the trees, to the flowing streamlets shoving dead leaves aside in neat aisles of wet vegetation. I was particularly taken with the dripping moss and tenacious mushrooms that clung to the wooden limbs all around. Soft things doing well in a hard world.
I would've taken more pictures but it was, you know, wet.
Turns out you don't need a balmy Summer's afternoon to fully appreciate the woods.
And breathe . . .
And breathe . . .