by Dr Suze Adams
I walk for many reasons – I enjoy walking, it loosens by mind, my body, my being. I am told it is good for my health (although I wondered when walking along Marylebone Road this week whether that is always the case) and that it helps the brain keep active. Walking away the years … is it really that good?!
I work from home most of the time and punctuate my working hours with regular walks – not that it always easy to stir myself , to make the effort to ‘go on a walk’ when part of me is telling me that I should really be finishing this piece of work or doing the paperwork on that project (and what about a cup of tea first?) but I know I need a break and that even a short time spent away from my desk will be beneficial – not only to how I feel but to the work I am engaged with.
I walk to gain distance but simultaneously to become close to, to be proximate to my surroundings and my body, to break away from distractions and the habitual.
I walk away: from routine and domesticity, from my office/studio, from the computer, the telephone, intrusive noise, from interior spaces and often from others …
I walk to: wake myself up, get some air, stretch my legs, listen to the wind, open my eyes and to free my mind from words or images that are going nowhere, projects and ideas that are no longer flowing … walking is movement, the body in action; walking, as I see it, is an opportunity to both recover and discover.
These are not walks of necessity: they are not aimless, neither do they have a concrete purpose – the aim is to get out there, the purpose unknown. The pleasure is a slow shifting (and sifting) of perspective as I become aware of new surroundings, different sounds, altered light, the air and sky above, the ground under my feet … the body settles into a pattern, an alternative rhythm, slowly up the hill and then more easily along the tops.
I usually take my camera and sometimes I take photographs (but this is not a given). I take a sound recorder, often I don’t get it out of my bag. I have a notebook and pencil in my pocket but seldom make notes. But always I return changed – more aware of body and environment, mind loosened by some small discovery en route; today the hedge filling with foliage after the winter, the ground greening, the regular cry of new-born lambs bleating for their mothers, a pair of pink gloves placed on the gatepost (up-turned udders for all to view), the sun chasing shadows across the valley.
Walking happens at a relatively slow pace so there is time to notice small things, both internal and external. I become conscious of the air I am breathing, it catches in my throat when it is dry or cold and becomes thick when humid. As a wise friend noted: ‘Every breathe we take is an exchange with our environment’.
Awareness sharpens, observance of slight differences in ground surface, the crunch of dry leaves or the swish of long grass, the squelch and splatter of mud; muscles that tighten then ease, knees that complain and ankles that threaten to twist; arms that hang loose, hands that fall out of pockets; and there is a slowing of thought as my gaze rests on distant horizons … the aim to walk, the purpose as yet unknown.