I share something in common with Virginia Woolf, Henry David Thoreau and Ludwig Van Beethoven.
We’re all great walkers.
Apparently, Woolf went for daily walks, though she most loved walking on a winter’s eve. She channeled that love into her most famous character, Clarissa Dalloway, who also took daily walks in Woolf's 1925 novel “Mrs. Dalloway.”
In Thoreau’s 1861 treatise “Walking,” written seven years after “Walden,” the writer and naturalist encourages readers to master the art of sauntering, defined as walking in a relaxed or slow manner.
Beethoven is said to have carried a pen and sheets of music paper out on his multiple daily walks, just in case his creativity got sparked by the fresh air and movement.
Some time ago, I stumbled on this Latin phrase and my soul stood up in recognition: “solvitur ambulando” — it is solved by walking.
Isn’t that the truth. I walk year-round, through the smoke-filled air from summer fires, through snowdrifts and spring rainstorms. Sometimes I move with purpose, sometimes toward a destination and sometimes simply to wander. I walk when life lobs me some stickiness, such as relationship issues or a hard decision, or when I can no longer make sense of something I’m writing.
There’s just something about the methodical movement of your feet upon the earth, grounding you into her surface, to slow your roll in the world. A walk is a gentle invitation to the muse, who often appears with an idea, solution or surprising way to word a thought.
Sometimes, when I walk through a quiet forest, my mind will spontaneously write whole paragraphs. Beethoven was right to bring along something to catch those outbursts. They float through the ether and if you don’t reach up, grab them and put them to use, somebody else will.
A 2014 Stanford study found walking indoors or outdoors kicks your creativity up a few notches. It was the act of walking, not the environment, that did it. And creativity levels were noticeably higher for those walking versus those sitting. That means even your treadmill journeys to nowhere can help.
A silver lining to current times means I’m working at home, where the back door is right there. In minutes I can be in Monument Valley Park, where the Pikes Peak Greenway Trail winds for miles. I’ve become an unofficial member of the group of daily walkers and runners I pass. Familiar faces and strides. We nod to each other, recognizing each other’s need for fresh air, sunshine and movement. This is also the summer I acquired the worst tan line of my life — a distinct line that separates the lily white of my thighs and upper shins from the sepia shade around my mid-to-lower calf where my capri pants hit. More than one neighbor has joshed me.
I walk to untangle my limbs after sitting cross-legged on my chair at the kitchen table, a decidedly non-ergonomic design I fear is setting me up for some sort of future physical catastrophe. As I walk, my body straightens and expands. My blood perks up. My disposition improves. I feel accomplished.
This is our slowest form of transportation, which is perhaps frustrating for some with our society’s penchant for rushing through our days and lives as quickly as we can. But a stroll allows you to really absorb your surroundings. The trees, birds, houses, kids playing on playgrounds, clouds, a sunset. You’re never the same person after a walk. There is always a pre-walk you and a post-walk you, who saw a hawk on a light pole or watched two little kids share a brownie in the park or overheard a conversation on a trail that surprised you.
Going for a run isn’t the same as going for a walk. Neither is going for a bike ride. If I’m running, rather, lumbering, there is not one ounce of space for the muse to deliver the soft underbelly of an idea. My mind is too consumed with thoughts of abject misery. If I’m riding a bike, I’m preoccupied with making contact with the pedals and not running into walkers, whom I enviously eyeball.
If you struggle with conversation, walk your talk. As a rather non-chatty person myself, I’ve found ambling alongside a friend or beloved opens up a direct portal to my mouth, where all manner of words and thoughts bubble up and out. Without face-to-face interaction, there’s no pesky distraction of eye contact or my inherent need to interpret facial expressions.
So I invite you to go forth into the world, friends. Not in your cars, but on your own two feet. And I dare you to leave your phone and earbuds at home. That podcast, baseball game or brilliant new album can wait. Take in the sights. Hear the sounds of life happening around you. Listen to your thoughts. Invite the muse. Daydream about your life.
Contact the writer: 636-0270