Last night, I went for a walk. I needed some air. It was a clear, cold, moonless night, the stars shimmering like multitudinous specks of glitter on the black velvet sky. I walked to the end of the street, did a left, and cut through onto the canal footpath. Immediately I thought of turning back and taking a different route. There was no light! I could barely see where I was going, and only the fact that I have walked that way many times before, prevented me from making a misstep and ending up either in a ditch, or worse, the canal. Suddenly, the security lights from three houseboats that are permanently moored along that stretch of canal clicked on, lighting up the pathway ahead. Past the houseboats, all was dark once more, but the dim orange light on the lock gates some one hundred meters further on, gave just enough illumination for me to navigate my way. I began to relax a little. Looking around me, I marvelled at the stillness of the black water. It was perfectly calm; no ripples or movement of any kind. I took a step towards the water’s edge and peered in, thinking about all the life going on beneath the surface (the canal feeds into the river Schelde, with fish being seen in the canal as a result). As I looked, I fancied that the black water resembled a scrying mirror, such as witches use, and that perhaps, if I gazed long enough into the void, I could perceive other realms. Then again, I smiled, maybe the blackness was the abyss that Nietzsche spoke about, and if I gazed long enough into it, it would gaze back. Come on Nelly, I said to myself, it’s far too cold for fanciful imaginings. You supposedly came out for a walk, so walk!
Thrusting my hands deep into my coat pocket, I wandered further on towards the lock. As I approached, I saw a solitary goose sitting on the concrete base at the foot of the lock gates. Illuminated as it was by the lock’s dim orange light, it looked somehow ethereal. I said hello (my first instinct when I see any animal is to say “hello”, whereas my first instinct when I see a person is to avoid eye contact and hope it goes away), and then climbed the stone steps up onto the top of the lock gates. Once at the stop, I looked down at the goose. Was it lonely, I wondered? Maybe it was alone, but not lonely. Then again, perhaps it was merely waiting…but for what? There goes your imagination again, Nelly! All the time I stood there, the solitary goose made no movement, no sound. I giggled to myself, thinking that perhaps Sherlock Holmes would not have been taken so seriously if, in “Silver Blaze” he’d said to Detective Gregory of Scotland Yard “the curious incident of the goose in the nighttime”.
I crossed over the lock gates and wandered down onto the opposite side of the canal, heading back home the long way round. About an hour later, and I was walking back up my street towards my house. I felt cold, but refreshed and full of vigor, my walk having taken me along the canal by way of Nietzsche and Sherlock Holmes.