I love walking, and while walking around my neighbourhood I got to thinking about why I enjoy it so much. Fitness certainly plays a part, for I am like a caged animal if I can’t get outdoors. But there is more to my walks than mere exercise, and one salient aspect is what I see. More ideas for drawing. Devonport is a lush green suburb at the tail-end of a peninsula. Homes are built on and around several volcanic cones, and nowhere is far from the sea. The views are simply stunning. My walking routes either begin or finish on King Edward Parade which looks across the harbour to Auckland City and to the other townships lining the promontory opposite.
So much happens on this stretch of water, from freighters guided in by tugboats, cruise ships leaving and yachts of every size and description sailing by. Ferries scoot across from the city to Devonport on the half hour, and many more ferries travel to the islands further out in the gulf. I am always impressed by the vast skies and the varied cloud formations, which lend themselves to large loose sketches with pen.
In the middle part of my walks I move away from the seafront and cars whooshing past, and turn towards the quieter streets to admire the lovely old villas lining them, which make up a good proportion of the homes in this community.
Here I can peer into gardens, admire the plants, talk to the owners who may be tending their properties. But it doesn’t end with the visual. When I consider this I realise many senses come into play; sound, smell and touch for example. A tui sits high in a bottlebrush calling to his mate, dry leaves scurry along the footpath.
The fallen pōhutukawa leaves crunch when I step on them. Leaves rustle above me. Wind nudges my hair. I stand for a moment watching Monarch butterflies flutter. Other people walk past; most have dogs. There’s usually a smile or ‘hello’ exchanged, or praise directed for the terriers, greyhounds or Labradors, all remarkably well behaved. More cyclists than cars pass.
Blossoms and flowers attract me with their scent. I lean into a lavender hedge, rub a flower between my fingers and lift it to my nose enjoying its poignant tang. I stroke a green coprosma leaf as I walk, feel its smoothness. My thoughts wander. I am reminded of sketching with charcoal, and the sound it makes when I guide it across the paper’s surface, and the feel on my fingertips when I rub the charcoal to create shading. I have often told students about the importance of looking, really looking, to make them aware of their artwork as a whole. For example, where their ‘model’ is placed on the page, the space surrounding the image, dimension, tone, etc. Do all artistic types feel like me when they walk around their neighbourhoods? The sun appears from behind a cloud and touches my face. I shrug off my jacket, tie the sleeves together around my waist, pull back my shoulders and set off at a faster pace.
I have reached the stretch which leads me alongside Takarunga (Mount Victoria) towards the village, and my apartment. I pass churches, a school and even more villas with gracious gardens behind trimmed hedges. These homes, some dating back to the late 1800’s, are kept in good condition by their owners. I check on the progress of a new build further along, and whether the house on the corner has sold. I cross the road. I am home.
An overseas visitor once described Devonport as a community that appeared comfortable in its own skin. It has certainly helped me feel comfortable in mine.