X Marks the Spot

There are not too many people in the park today. A few runners, a distressing number of pregnant people (counting back, November was a hell of a month for some of you). And of course that guy sunbathing on the grass in the starfish position and a wanna-see-my-circumcision-scar swimsuit.  

It’s perfect.

After three months of not moving at all, I am finding that a simple walk can elicit a variety of utter and ecstatic joys. First and foremost, there’s the joy of moving my legs and propelling myself forward on a path and not towards my couch. This joy is in a tight race with not being near people. Then there’s a bunch of other crap about fresh air and exercise.

The away time and casual exercise is incredibly fortifying. By “away” I mean that I am not tempted to check my email or answer the phone if it rings. Sometimes I leave the phone at home and just walk in absolutely glorious quiet (unless I’m verbalizing an argument). If I do this, I can feel a sense of disassociation with assholes, who are, by the way, in abundance in the places I tend to visit online and usually wear red hats.

If I do have my phone I listen to a podcast. My perennial favorites remain Lore, Ologies, and Marc Maron, but The Darkest Timeline, The Sporkful, and The Allusionist have made their way into the rotation.

Perhaps the best part about a walk is that there’s no goal. I don’t have to get to a metro or a class. I am not meeting anyone. At the most, I can stop at the pub directly across the street from the park’s gate. But even that is up to me. I can walk for 90 minutes or 3 hours. Goal-based thinking makes up such a large part of my day. I have a daily word count with writing (1500 words), a daily page count for editing/proofreading (5), minimum number of pages read per day (20), and a minimum number of workouts per week (4). So for this sort of an obsessive nit, a walk with no goal is bliss.

Yesterday I was on my way through the woods when I came across something I had seen twice before, but failed to really pay attention to – an X. On the ground was a man-sculpted stone and on that stone was a noticeable yet not large X. Hm, I thought, and as I meandered through the woods I made several jokes to myself. None of them are funny enough to put here. But I won’t lie – the X was in my head.

About a month ago, on a beautiful May day, we walked to nearby Bílá Hora and sat in a beer garden. We ended up talking to a nice gent who is a lifelong resident of our area and told us that he often goes to the park with a metal detector. He does this because a famous battle took place there during the Thirty Years’ War in 1620 and he hopes to turn up some ancient military debris.

Today I come across the X again. I did not bring a shovel (I wouldn’t), but I stand on the X stone and wonder what’s beneath. I mean, it’s too obvious that a bunch of protestant soldiers of the Bohemian kingdom got together and buried some treasure, right? Right?

Were this a movie (X), it would start out with a ragtag group of protestant soldiers breaking away from their battalion during a foggy and confused battle scene. They’d find themselves alone in the woods, the shouts of battle and the shrieks of the dying in the background as they swear an oath and, knowing all hope is lost, bury their esoteric loot. And then, as the Holy Roman Empire’s soldiers close in on them, they stand to fight to the death, the survivors envying the fallen who get to avoid 350 years of speaking German followed by a predilection for socks and sandals. Cut to stocky man walking through woods in socks and sandals listening to podcast, he is clueless, at the bottom of screen: 2020

The blended sense of history and mystery is a heady elixir. But surely someone would have thought to themselves: Hm. X marks the spot. Bet I’ll find something if I dig here. If Indiana Jones has taught me anything it’s that X never marks the spot, except for that time when he directly opposed and disproved his own claim. I wonder what the goonies would do with an X on a rock. Harry Potter and his pals would no doubt delve into a world of adventure punctuated by snakes and the occasional comic relief from Ron Weasley.   

I won’t do this. If for no other reason than I am afraid my Czech isn’t good enough to explain to the eventually-arriving police officers. Ale musel jsem. Je tam X (I had to. There’s an X) probably won’t keep me out of handcuffs.

I step on the X and then walk down the path. I am a bit sad that my childlike wonder has been beaten down by pragmatic rationalizations. Also, I tell myself that I’m being less goal oriented on these walks. And digging at an X seems like a textbook example of goal-oriented work.

I listen to my podcast – the eerie Lore – and find my way over the X two more times. I step on it and walk on. I won’t dig anything, but it’s nice to think there’s a simple answer to something while the world falls apart at the seams. Most of the world is suffering through a pandemic, the rest is suffering through a fake deep state conspiracy in pandemic form. Politicians gaslight the world. It’s fun to think of a simple solution to our problems, X marks the spot. Just dig there and you’ll find the answers or treasure, or something. Anyway, that’s the fun of walks in the first place and this one ends in the pub.       

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