Geetanjali Mukherjee

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Hiding in Plain Sight

Sometimes we miss even the most wonderful things just because we aren’t looking in the right place. Sometimes there is great beauty or amazing experiences to be had, but we can’t see them because we fail to venture just a few steps outside our comfort zone.

I have lived for the last few years incredibly close to the sea, and went for many walks by the beach and on the promenade. I believed I knew this area well, and was grateful for the incredibly scenic route to walk in. However, recently due to some construction, barriers were put up at certain points, restricting movement in the area, especially across a small bridge that formed part of my usual route. I found myself restricted to a short loop, which quickly grew boring, and I almost gave up on walks along that route.

There was a longer route past the promenade of restaurants, that led to an area popular for camping and barbecues. I had been there a few times and while the path was popular with many runners, I hadn’t ventured beyond a point and didn’t think it was particularly interesting. Perhaps I was a little intimidated by the large crowds gathered around the various barbecue pits I encountered at each occasion I ventured that far inside the park area.

A few weeks ago, frustrated at the short loop that I thought I was forced to walk, I ventured towards the campgrounds, and finding the paths relatively empty and interesting, I kept walking, right past the crowd of barbecue pits. I walked past the built-up area and found a scenic spot with some benches, and a particularly scenic view. I took some pictures, admired the view, and turned around. It was a pleasant walk. Later in the week, I went just a bit further.
Then a few days later, I decided to walk around - and re-discovered a pond I had seen in the area some years ago on a brief picnic with some visiting relatives. On that occasion we had simply walked past it. On this day I decided to explore it, walking around its perimeter till it grew dark.

I returned a few days later, walking straight towards the pond. It was earlier in the evening, so instead of floundering around in the dark, I could explore freely. The pond was beautiful. A little wild, a little unkempt. And I noticed several paths converging by the pond. I took one of these paths and explored.

And I found secret walking trails. A network of narrow paths with forest on both sides. A short gravelly trail strewn with fallen leaves and canopied by converging trees. Rich vegetation growing abundantly, marking the edges of the walking paths. I had stumbled upon one of the nature parks of Singapore.

I had no idea something this beautiful and undiscovered existed so close to where I lived, so close to the trail I had walked regularly for the past few years. This particular area was shaded and cool even on hot, sunny late afternoons. While there were a few cyclists and one or two lone runners, for the most part, the trails were secluded, and I had the feeling of being transported to a Disney movie, where I had discovered a parallel dimension, or walked into a secret fairy world.

Since the day I made my first discovery of this beautiful wooded area, I have gone on many long walks by myself, marveling in the serenity and peace I feel as soon as I step onto the now-familiar trail. And I started to think, how was it that this beauty existed so close, and yet I had never seen it before? And what else was I not seeing? What else was hiding in plain sight?

Part of being a writer is seeing something that everyone else sees, but seeing it differently. Seeing with beginner’s mind, as the Zen Buddhists would say. But in this case it wasn’t that I was seeing something familiar differently. It’s that I was seeing something for the first time, that should be familiar.

I had restricted myself to the same short circular walk for years, without venturing beyond a set route. I had grown comfortable in my comfort zone. And isn’t that what many of us do without realizing? We walk the same set path, stick to the same actions, without realizing that there may be breathtaking beauty just steps away, if only we would venture down a different road for once.

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