For the past four days I have been walking the last part of the Pieterpad with my friend Peter. The Pieterpad is one of the best walked paths in the Netherlands, going more then 300 miles from the upper north of our country to the deepest south. I know, we are a small country. We started some 10 years ago, sometimes we walk two weekends per year, other years we don’t walk at all. So this is the end of the walk. Like I wrote before about Belgrade, it is a bit of an anti-climax. There you are at the end of your walk. You hug and that was that. We look back at our walk, the conversations and the silences. The walking through wind and rain, through warm sunny days. The strange, funny and warm places where we stayed. The pleasure is in the walking, not in the goal.
During the walk I finally see them as well: the small green leafs on the big beech trees. For me, this is where spring begins. Looking around me, at all that is already blossoming and full green, I realise that the beech is late to sprout its leafs. Like someone who needs to be certain before they can come out. Or like someone who knows that this is his time and no other. Or like someone who grows in silence, not caring what all the rest are doing. For me, I have this feeling that my moment has passed without me realising it was ever there. Time to catch up.
Being occupied with beginnings and endings makes me think of what comes before and what comes after. The walk that Peter and I did has ended and will not come again, but spring will come back every year; it will always be spring again. That is the difference between linear and cyclical time perception. Both are correct but the implications are vastly different. In cyclical time everything is repeated, the seasons, the years, the days, even your life. Cyclical time gives you the idea that you can mend and repeat things. In linear time everything goes forward and nothing ever comes back. The poem by Antionio Machado is a nice example.
Wanderer, your footsteps are the road, and nothing more;
wanderer, there is no road, the road is made by walking.
By walking one makes the road,
and upon glancing behind one sees the path that never will be trod again.
Wanderer, there is no road–
Only wakes upon the sea.
Although I do agree with Machado I do have a slight preference for cyclical time. What has disappeared has gone for ever but may return in different shape or form, something like that? Time is a wondrous concept. Augustinus made it clear by comparing it with hearing or singing a song. That which has already sounded stays with us and that which hasn’t sounded yet is already there. Without this there is no song, no music. In the ‘now‘ there isn’t even any sound, because for sound you need time, duration. What was before is never completely gone and what is still to come is always already a little there. Time contains memories and futures. In time there lies hope, trust and expectation.