The Breaks

Here is a voice recording, or you can read through the text below.

Our civilisation-programmed minds seem to feel most comfortable with some regularity, or at least a reasonably predictable pattern to our day. But, when one is totally exposed to the wilderness, like on an extended foot excursion, it is mostly circumstances, sometimes led by mere curiosity, sometimes by brutal dictate, that determine the course of a day. Fixed routine is usually an illusion.

I have learnt to be flexible, to abandon any plans that may have been contemplated, to a change in situation. I do tend to adopt a nominal rhythm though: the dawn start, the first hours of non-stop walking in the morning coolness, the tea break at around nine o’clock, the midday break from around twelve, to three, and then the afternoon walk with its hourly breaks of some fifteen minutes, till close to sunset, when we need to start preparing for the night. Although this may change drastically as the day progresses, it provides a reference framework of sorts, at least at the beginning of a day.

The breaks are welcome interludes. They give opportunity for reset, for focussing the mind away from the problem of fatigue, for regaining context, for refreshing the senses that may have become a little jaded in the slog of walking, and for putting one’s observations and thoughts in perspective.

Of the breaks, my favourites are the short ones between walks. The tea breaks are usually somewhat busy with the tea thing, and the midday breaks are partly taken up by getting some form of nourishment into the body.

But the short ones… They are brief and primitive to the carnal level. No room for anything other than finding a comfortable spot, and indulging in just, rest. Not by decree, but by mutual preference there is usually very little talking; just staring out over the veldt, sometimes liberally mindless, or sightless, with just a subconscious level of alertness to signs of danger.

The abrupt relief from strenuous activity distils everything into the moment; to what is here, now – the slow-undulating grass that have grown lush in the rare good rains, the wind in the foliage above, the sound of a ripe pod fluttering to the ground, bird sounds, some rounded and soothed by distance, some close and intense, the tiny tick-ticking of some insect in the grass, the slow drain of fatigue from the bones, a shift in position and a sigh from one of my companions…

Those are moments sufficient unto themselves. Nothing more than what is in them, the sounds and views and sensations, and letting the body and the senses take a break, is desired. They are simple moments, but some of the most fulfilling in the bush.

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