Walking Out Sticking Points

Earlier this week, Terri Windling posted on her blog, Myth and Moor, a collection of quotes about the power of a walk to help clear the mind, connect us with our bodies, and invite inspiration. She shared this passage from Rebecca Solnit’s Wanderlust: A History of Walking: “Walking, ideally, is a state in which mind, the body, and the world are aligned, as though they were three characters finally in conversation together, three notes suddenly making a chord. Walking allows us to be in our bodies and in the world without being made busy by them. It leaves us free to think without being wholly lost in our thoughts.”

I am fortunate to live in a neighborhood close to the city and the university with the research library I haunt, yet perched at the edge of a wooded area that is inhabited, but gently. I can accomplish many errands on foot, no one aware that I have a crowd of characters in tow with whom I’m arguing (far safer than piling them into the car). When I don’t want the distraction of shops and post offices and libraries I can drag the gang down through the wooded area to and along a lake. Worried about a deadline? I hang that worry on an obliging branch and move on. Encounters with hummingbirds, eagles, neighborhood cats and dogs, gray herons, opinionated crows and blue jays, operatic robins–they all remind me to lighten up. And I pass that advice on to my invisible companions. Although it’s a steep climb back, I often hurry up the hill composing sentences in my head, the problem solves, the floodgates open. I know I could just pull out my phone and dictate, but I hate that intrusion.

If I don’t want to venture too far from the page, I pace in my own garden. Somehow just stepping out onto the earth helps clear my head.

When I was working on the Margaret Kerr books I boldly wrote to the novelist Nigel Tranter asking if we could meet while I was in Scotland. He graciously invited me to tea at his home. It was an afternoon I’ll always treasure. I bring it up because he told me about his walks, every morning a walk to the water, carrying a small notebook in which he would frequently pause to sketch out the scenes in his novel-in-progress, which he would flesh out at his desk in the afternoon. This was his daily writing routine. Even into his 90s he thought best when in motion. He was walking to and from the shore of the Firth of Forth–imagine the weather in which he walked in winter! But he did it, every day, until illness took him.

I noticed a story–big news!–recently about the discovery that walking is good for creativity. Oh, really?

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