Few things trouble me when walking the dog. I feel extremely lucky to get a bit of headspace in doing so, to take in some of the outdoors and watch the boy bound around enjoying himself. That isn’t to say I’m not troubled while walking: part of the joy of the walk is using that time to work through things that I may have brought with me. It’s very rare there’s anything troubling with the walk itself though, aside from regular exceptions.
The first of these exceptions is rubbish. Litter. Scraps. Waste. From the occasional chocolate bar wrapper or crisp packet to empty bottles, and face-masks. These things make me wonder if I should double up my walks with litter picking duties, but I haven’t done this just yet. Litter is sometimes outdone by fly-tipping of course; eyesores of a sink or bath, or several bin bags of waste, which are pretty upsetting in reminding how little some people care about ‘natural beauty’ (read as: the planet). I’m putting litter and fly-tipping together as one exception because they’re ends of the same stick. But there is another thing which troubles me.
I’ve always found the sight of a lost mitten or glove (particularly a child’s) fairly unsettling. I’ve mainly put this down to the weird spookiness of it and thought no more about it: It’s perhaps just some Brothers Grimm-level twistedness where children have been disappeared, or run away scared witless at something. There is that element of spookiness in kids’ gloves, but there’s also a potential scariness to adults’ lost gloves.
Should you ever visit Haysden Country Park in Tonbridge, it has a tree of lost gloves of all sizes. That’s right, a tree with scores of them propped up looking like little hanging branched hands. It’s at the end of the main car park (before the overflow). There is a path and a bridge which I can’t recall the name of, but which the Internet refers to as The Bridge over the Shallows. To the right of this bridge, before you cross from car park into the park proper, is the tree filled with gloves and mittens. I suppose it…does serve as a nice emblem of community spirit. But a tree with little empty branch hands is fairly Grimm on first sight.
The air of oddity never really leaves on repeat visits either. Plus, that the tree is set as overcast by neighbouring trees makes it tricky to feel very optimistic about the whole thing. Yep, lost gloves and mittens are a spooky thing regardless of size. But today I connected the dots on why children’s losses are spooky and sad.
Today I saw a small blue and red-striped glove on a muddy path, and my mind decided: The loss of half a pair of items given specifically to a child to ward off the cold is concerning. The loss of just one of two items item given to warm the hands in winter and to provide comfort to vulnerable beings is an uncomfortable one. Because how do these losses happen and what happened after? Putting aside twisted fairy stories, was a child hurried along or simply lost grip? Was the child held responsible, and will they remember the loss? Were they particularly fond of the pair? "
“I’m probably reading too much into it”, I thought.
But then, do not ask me why - because the leap is so tangential and I have no nicely worded transition - after seeing the glove, I walked on and I looked at my own hands. I imagined myself as a child, with one hand gloved and warm and the other hand not. And I imagined the joy of finding the other glove.
As I visualised the reappeared glove the joy was oddly real. Then, as both gloves faded onto adult hands, I thought about recent writings and the warmth it’s given me:
”Perhaps I do have a lost glove back”, I thought.
The boy looked at me briefly, then went back to hopefully tracking squirrels.
All the gloves,