Rachel McGladdery writes:
I suffer from poor prioperception, this means that unless I can see them, I don’t know at any given time where my limbs are in relation to the rest of my body or general space. I bump into things, I fall over, I have to concentrate Very Hard to get my limbs to go where I want them to. I consider myself therefore pretty disorientated a fair bit of the time, if I can’t map my own body parts, what chance have I got of knowing where I am geographically?
I also never enjoyed maps, until very recently. While helping facilitate the first Walking the Wyre workshop in Garstang, most of the group went on a walk, while me and one other attendee stayed in the work room at the Fig Tree Cafe and looked at maps. I didn’t have much choice in the matter, my mobility is very limited so although I didn’t really mind staying back, the prospect of talking about maps wasn’t filling me with enthusiasm.
I was lucky and completely unaware of the epiphany waiting for me. The lady who was left in the room with me, a crisp adventuress, had such enthusiasm for maps and where they took her, that I was soon caught up in it. She described them as being like three different books, at first, they are a rough guide, you can only imagine the landscape unfurled on the floor as you excitedly plot your prospective course, secondly, while walking it becomes magical, flat features rise around you and become three dimensional, the colours, contours, terrain and sights smells become real. Thirdly, it becomes a reminder, once home you can spread the map out on the floor again and remember the physical reality as your finger traces out the path you took.
This idea enthralled me, I was soon on an imaginary journey, she traced paths over places I’d visited before or had at least heard of, showed me how the straight line routes were indicative of earlier Roman roads, explained that the larger roads had all, at one time, been much smaller paths, probably borrowed by early humans from animal tracks. It inspired this poem, which I was lucky enough to have included in the Walking the Wyre publication.
Across creased landscapes, wide enough to fill a floor
the lines are drawn, nail-scoured a divot deep
cross Beatrix Fell, past Shooter’s Hut, Camp Bridge
her finger crushing vaccaries beneath
where a dint erodes, makes sinkholes swallow sheep,
sends trees on downward heltering
here, where a rabbit run, a badger path, marked with shaving bristles,
caught on staves of fencing, moles as minims
became a rut, a route, a coffin-path, a road,
once was a unique view, hair first wind parted
was once a quivered mesh of grass
seen from five foot high
heart opening to the sea.