This summer, when I was about to board my train from Chippenham to Oxford, I had run out of activities.
Things to read.
Podcasts to listen to.
As I stood on the platform, I got antsy with anticipation. Whatever was I going to do on this 55-minute train ride?
When the train in question arrived, we learned that it was one of those unfortunate ones that was supposed to be ten carriages, but was five instead.
We crammed into the compartments, spilling into the aisles. I didn’t get a seat. And so I stood, wedged in the aisle, swaying on tip-toes, holding the loop suspended from the ceiling that kept me from tumbling onto the other passengers.
I stood there.
I stood, and I looked out the window, and I watched the scenery whir by.
I didn’t have a choice. I didn’t have anything to occupy myself with, and even if I had, I wouldn’t have been able to use it.
I smiled at how life had lined up. How running out of pages and podcasts had freed me from missing out.
Yesterday, I was on another overcrowded train.
I had work with me. But I was squeezed into the corridor, stooped against my suitcase as a makeshift seat, balancing my tote bag of packed lunch against my satchel of activities, now useless, as there was no space to open it up.
I was prepared this time. I had movies downloaded on my laptop. Podcasts for days. A paperback book of which I’d hardly cracked the spine.
I attempted to listen to a podcast over the rumbling and squeaking of the train, desperate to ‘catch up’.
Déjà vu struck. In a flash I remembered my exact position on that tiny train over the summer. How I felt the liberation of having no options and no entertainment. How I had no choice but to be content with standing still and being exactly where I was, free from worry about what I was doing.
And so, yesterday, I twisted around to face the sliver of window in the corridor. I watched the hills and their little house rush by, drinking in the live theatre of this view, entertainment in enjoying exactly where I was – a pleasure I’d been neglecting by attempting to cover it up with ‘doing’ and ‘accomplishing’ and ‘catching up’.
The irony is, when I was more ‘prepared’, I was more stressed out.
In that moment, when I turned around and chose to be in my own surroundings in the present, I was doing what I call secret gardening: finding magic and wonder in even the most unpleasant and non-magical of situations, simply by looking around and noticing.
There are epic, castle-sized adventures, but there are also little secret pockets within those castle grounds. These adventures are so tiny; you might miss them, but if you look, you are rewarded with the most luscious and lovely treasures of all.
Seek secret gardens in your own setting.
If you would like some guidance, join me in my new programme, Everyday Wonderland, and receive a digital postcard each week to guide you in your wanderings.
Minimum time commitment: 1 minute per week.
The gates to Everyday Wonderland are open til next Tuesday, 2 October.