For me, heaven on earth is exploring canal paths and discovering where they lead to. I just love canals. As I've explored a particular canal in one direction, I was curious about where it went in the opposite direction. I promised myself that one Sunday I was going to explore it, which I did recently.
Before I left, I put out an intention for the weather to be dry and perfect for walking.
When I got off the bus and joined the canal, the weather was perfect: nice and cool, just the way I like it for walking. I walked down the canal until it reached a point where there was no longer any footpath to continue. The only way was to come out of it and find a way to get back on the canal further down. I asked this woman if she knew where I could connect back to the canal and she advised me to walk ahead and ask someone as it was too complicated to explain. After a few minutes I spotted a taxi driver dropping off a passenger. I asked him if he knew where I could link back to the canal. He told me he knew about roads not canals. I thought taxi drivers in London had studied The Knowledge and are meant to be familiar with all the nooks and crannies of London. You can't get the staff these days.
I asked a lady further down the road if she knew and she pointed which way to go. Another man I asked pointed the way and I ended up back right where I had started. I asked another man and he said he didn't know but his friend who lives locally might. He phoned his friend on his mobile to ask him. His friend's direction would take me back to where I started. I explained that I wanted to continue walking down the canal as far as it goes. The man's friend believed there was no other access. I thanked the man for calling his friend.
I knew there was a way to access the canal and it was a matter of finding it. It was time to trust in my love for canals, which I believed would guide me to it. I decided to treat my adventure like a dog being taken for a walk and trust in my walker. I was inspired to walk down a particular street which usually has a market. The traders had finished for the day so it was nice and quiet. As I walked down, two guys walked ahead of me. One even turned round to look at me. I read his glance as a sign that I was headed in the right direction. At the junction, they turned left but I knew I should go right. I ended up walking down a housing estate, the type some people might be scared of walking down on their own. I followed the road down until I arrived at another junction. I felt a tug on my invisible lead to go right. So off I went sniffing in that direction until I noticed some greenery and a path and eh voila, it was the lost canal of Islington. I've never been so happy to see a canal.
I asked a man sitting on a bench overlooking the canal whether this was the same canal I had left behind and he said it was; and it will lead me all the way to Camden Lock. I asked if I could stroke his dog. He said he was sure his dog, called Indy, wouldn't mind. After stroking him Indy was off. The man said Indy was looking for a gift to offer me. Apparently, Indy likes giving gifts but he hasn't quite worked out how to let go of his gifts. I asked the man whether he's heard of an American expression called Indian giver: "any individual who gives something and then either takes it back or wants to take it back." I said Indy sounds like one. He said he wasn't aware of that expression. (I've also heard that expression in Total Recall, one of my favourite films).
Indy returned with a nice stick in his mouth for me but when I went to grab it, he wouldn't let me have it.
"See, your dog is an Indian giver," I chuckled. "It's funny how his name is Indy."
"That's very interesting," the man said. "He's actually named after Indiana Jones."
"Ha, I see you've got an Indiana Jones hat," I said to my friend.
I then said goodbye and continued my walk. As I walked away I thought of Indy's intention to love in his own way even though he won't let the gift go. I guess it's the thought that counts.
I followed the canal called Regent's Canal all the way to Camden Lock, located in the middle of Camden Market which was heaving with shoppers. Sunday is their busiest day. After dodging the shoppers, I crossed over a bridge and I continued my walk down the canal. I had noticed a sign leading to Little Venice, which I decided would be my destination. Then I would catch a bus back home.
As I walked I noticed how people enjoy the canal in their own ways. There were people on boat trips going up and down the canal; there were people who lived on barges on the canal; there were cyclists going back and forth; there were walkers like myself going for their strolls, some with their dogs; and there were men fishing on the canal. I even stopped and asked a guy fishing if he'd caught anything. He said he had but let them go. He said there were pikes and eels in the water. I wished him well and continued my walk.
At some point there was a sign that said the pathway was closed. I figured I would get off the canal, cross over the road and find another entrance. The next entrance had a gate which was closed to the public. Damn! Two women behind me had the same idea. Then one woman asked another walker, who had come from the other direction, if there was a way to get back on the canal. She advised us to walk further down and we'll find it.
I figured I would walk with the two women though I stayed ahead of them. I could hear them chatting behind me then suddenly they were gone. It was as if they'd gone down the Bermuda Triangle and ended up in another time-space continuum. Maybe, it was I who had been sucked into the Bermuda Triangle. I decided to explore the area anyway as dogs like sniffing around. I noticed a van with the same surname as a friend of mine which I read as a sign that I was heading in the right direction. After I'd been exploring the area for a while I decided it was time to get back on the canal. I asked a man if the canal was close by and he said no. I heard some seagulls above which signified there was water close by. I came across another guy and asked him how I could get to "Little Venice." He pointed the way which was about half a mile down. After walking for ages and not seeing any evidence of my destination, I noticed some people walking towards me. One boy's T-shirt had the words: "Never ever give up!" Right, I won't! With dogged determination, I walked down a road and came to a park. Do I go left or right. I had a feeling I should go left. I saw a woman coming towards me and I asked her the way to "Little Venice." She said I was pretty close and said I would see the canal at the end of the road. I noted she had an Italian accent. Within a few minutes I was back on the canal. There were lots and lots of boats in that section and it did look like Venice, at least what I've seen in movies anyway.
I was dog-tired and decided to have a rest on a bench overlooking the canal. I watched a man, a woman and a baby in a push chair feeding the ducks and pigeons. Soon another woman arrived with her son to feed the ducks. She sat on the bench opposite me. While her son fed the birds, I chatted to her. She told me she lived locally and loves walking down the canal and bringing food for the ducks. Her son is five and she has a girl who is three next month. (Her birthday is 8 days before mine). We chatted about snacks we like and even exchanged ideas about food. While we were chatting I saw the two women who had disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle. One said to me, "You made it then?" I told her I had gone all round the houses and had eventually got back on the canal. She said they were following me then I seemed to disappear. They got back on the canal and have been following it all the way. I wished them a lovely walk.
When my new friend's son had finished feeding the ducks, he said he was going to create a person. He found a pebble which was the head, some cigarette butts which he used to make the torso, arms and legs. After admiring his work of art, I decided it was time to head off home. My friend showed me where I could catch my bus home which was only a few minutes away. When I got off the canal, I found myself going in the opposite direction. I guess the dog in me was curious to explore the area but I had to put my foot down and insist it was time to go home. I saw my friend who pointed the right way to catch the bus. A few minutes later, my bus arrived.
During my bus ride home, I thought about what it means to walk one's own individual path. When I asked people for directions, I was sent all over the place. It was only when I decided to follow my heart - my love for canals - that I was able to find the canal. Later when I was walking with those two women and we parted company, I followed my heart and explored the area. There was always someone around to guide me when I needed directions. Although I took the scenic route, compared to my friends, I still ended up at my destination.
Doing what I love is my path.
I trust in Love.
Related articles: Persistence; Love's Organising Principle; Where the Heart Is; Firework Display; The Dog Trainer; What's New, Pussycat?; On Being Polite; Life is a Walk in the Park; The Lost Art of Bone Idleness; Nothing But a Hound Dog; Trusting in Your Path