In a way every visit to the veld, the forest, the beach, the desert or the mountain is a quest of some sort, albeit a modest one. The German poet, Goethe’s words “Ich ging im Walde… Und nichts zu suchen” in English “I went into the forest… and not searching for anything” at first glance says differently.
Because nature is alive, the expectation of encountering living things that at least breathe, if not move or doing more, is always implicit when going for a walk. This is what the trip is about in the least intentional form of hiking: saying hallo to the other life forms on earth, so oft forgotten.
Something fresh and unexpected, worthwhile or memorable, even dangerous will show itself, also on days when the walking occurs in preoccupied mode or mood, with closed mind. Hurray, other life on earth is still there, not only people!
And Goethe? He happened to find a flower on his walk that talked to him! That's when he wanted to pick it, it convinced him not to. (Moses and the burning bush weren't that unique.) Goethe ended up digging his flower out, roots and all and took it home. Planting it was a great success, for it grew and kept flowering, worth a poem.
In this way his no plan walk became exceptionally memorable, both to himself and to thousands of people reading his poem ever since, translated today into many languages. It has also become a famous German folk song. All from a relaxing little walk on an ordinary afternoon of solitude.
The walk in the park, also any city park, delivers communion with life, the same as walking in the wildest bush. Or scaled down, depending on one's outlook and limits of imagination. The Walter Sisulu on the West Rand introduces countless flowers, leaves and trees, some new ones guaranteed every time.
A glimpse of the famous waterfall through the leaves is sure to appear at some point, always exhilarating. The view may be etched in memory, yielding a story for an intimate occasion to be shared with a close friend. Or captured electronically for mass communication among the lonelier people in the bigger crowds.
Don’t even think of doing a Goethe on any of the Garden’s flowers! Those opportunities have dwindled in real life, because human numbers have soared since Goethe's time.
The idea of planting something may live, however, in other ways. For good citizens too.