On an empty Barton Common, the gorse spreads wide to welcome the sunshine and the silence is broken only by the birds singing arias to the arrival of spring. Bluebells still linger in these sunny corners; they will not outstay their welcome, though, and will soon yield to the gaudy interventions of the wild rhododendrons.

Now that the humans have receded into their chrysalises, the animals, first nations of these parts, reclaim the empty golf courses.

I prefer not to cast my eyes westward, to where the grand houses of the well-resourced cast severe gazes seaward, down over an unkempt wild . Though I can well understand the inclination of the monied to hole up in such refuges, when I look upon them I whisper to myself “Not my journey“ and turn away.

Horse riders approach. I turn and walk away, prizing the silence above the very human inclination to fill the emptiness with friendly words. But they are taking my path. I stand aside to let them pass and follow at a distance, fixing my meditation on horseshoes and waving tails. Herein lie metaphors unnumbered.

Quite suddenly, the common is filled with walkers, accompanied by cockerpoos and labradoodles – designer mongrels of choice of those who need to to smother their insecurity with statements of opulence, even in their choice of canine companions. They stop at safe social distances to exchange pleasantries. I have no innate objection but I am here for the silence, so I draw away and make for the sea.

But they are determined ramblers and soon catch me up. As I stand aside to let them pass, my thoughts are drawn to the perpetual hunger I see expressed about me to establish status, superiority, the reassurance of self-worth by those who feel so little valued. I have long since learned I am not here for the peacock displays in which I so readily participated in the years now flown, a lifetime ago. Now I walk a different path, having realised that my calling is to illuminate journeys. For, in the sunlight of spirit, eyes open and hearts become aware of their true, inestimable worth.

As I reach the seafront, I am confronted by too many other walkers, seizing the opportunity of sunshine to salve the monotony of self isolation. I will walk a little further, but soon will turn back to the relative emptiness of Barton Common.

And yes, for now, I walk alone. For Matt, my inseparable companion of fifteen years, who nosed about these parts in unbridled of joy, passed from my sight last year (though I am told by those who have the eyes to see, that he still visits quite regularly, but now with diminishing frequency). For me, he does so only by drawing me to revisit the memories of unleashed walks, where his vision rises before me to draw smiles and tears from me in equal measure.

Only now have I been able to bring myself to write or speak of him. Perhaps, in time, there will be another companion to fill this empty space. Whether that will be soon or somewhere out in the distance, I cannot yet say. And who knows? It might even be a cockerpoo that comes, to teach me to love more and judge less.

Until then, I shall continue to seek out the commons and the copses, to walk in the silent spaces in which I am never lonely and, in the constant sunlight of Spirit, never alone.

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