365 days

On 10 December 2021, I committed to a daily walk. On Friday 9 December 2022, I celebrated 365 days of walking.

Day 365

The ground was frozen. The frost was thick. The sun was rising. The moon had stayed up for me. Nature came out in celebration of me keeping my commitment to myself. Whatever a day has had in store, there nature has been waiting for my arrival, reminding me that these steps are the right ones to be taking.

Quite fittingly for me, walking has held joy. Walking has also offered knowledge. In Saskrit, ‘every word that means ‘walk’ also means to ‘know’ (Kagge, 2018, p.161).

This year of walking has held lessons; gentle truths waiting for me to notice them:

  • There are unique joys to be found in each season; they will fade and they will return.
  • The sun rising and setting is a chance to set aside the feelings that linger and begin anew.
  • A hushed grey sky can lend a blanket that allows me to explore my inner world.
  • Rays of sunshine glinting through branches shed light on neglected corners of my life.
  • A round-the-block scurry or a moonlight wander teach me to accept imperfection.
  • Through movement, I can shift the moment.
 
My favourite walks have generally been accompanied by a view of a sunset, a sunrise, rolling hills, lakes, the sea. My solo walks around Scotland were some of the most memorable and best described by the words of Ellen  Weeton:
 
‘The hours I have spent here, have been hours of luxury indeed! Here, totally alone, my thoughts expanded with the prospect: and, free and unrestrained as the air I breathed, I was happy as  a mortal could be’ (Weeton, 1811-1825, p.45 cited in Andrews, 2020, p.95).
 
Other walks that have stayed with me are more surprising: the ones where I extended my loop because I had been able to tune into what my body needed, the wintry ones where it was cold enough for me to see my breath and my cheeks turned numb, and the ones where the cloud was heavy enough to dull all sounds and provide much-needed silence.
 
Crucially, I’ve noticed how the radical act of going for a walk has changed my life. ‘Some days I choose the path of least resistance from the moment I get out of bed until the moment I get back in’ (p.18). Walking can be a movement away from comfort and into the kind of challenges that lead to growth. Instead of giving into the persuasion of the comfortable, becoming ‘further entrenched, both legs stuck fast in a deep, soggy swamp’, I can choose to lead my life rather than live in it (Kagge, 2018, p.19).
 
When I began walking, I assumed each step I took would create distance between me and whatever was troubling me that day. Whilst this has sometimes been the case, most of the time my steps have actually ‘drawn me right alongside’ my troubles, ‘in the space and silence’, letting ‘the quieter parts of myself speak’ (Steel in Dept. Store of the Mind, 2017, p.20). Walking has been ‘the antidote’ to the endless ‘pitter-patter’ of my mind (p.17); shifting the pace of my thoughts and allowing new possibilities to enter. When present in my walk, I’ve noticed how walking is the only part of my day that seems to ‘expand time rather than collapse it’ (Kagge, 2018, p.17). To external eyes, very little may have changed but in my inner world, everything may have.
 

The active ingredients of a 'morning' walk

As a new year of walking begins, I’m reflecting on the factors that influence the ‘effectiveness’ of my morning walk.

  • At whatever time of day the walk takes place, it is reliant on intention – the commitment to self; honouring the practising, becoming, being. When a ‘morning’ walk is tethered to chores or squeezed into the corners of a day out of obligation, it loses its sheen.
  • The route taken, the distance travelled and the vistas experienced can be dictated by one’s inner world and not by the time available.
  • If a walk is taken in company, it’s valuable when they share a commitment to quiet noticing, and to nature appreciation; ‘just because one goes for a walk with somebody doesn’t mean that one wants to submit oneself entirely to the thing that’s on their mind’ (Flintoff in Dept. Store of the Mind, 2017, p.37).
  • Any weather is walkable with the right clothing.

Celebrating what's been and what's ahead

As I move forward with my practice, I’m looking forward to what more I might learn in the steps that await me. I feel as though I’m in a ‘liminal zone’, where I am ‘no longer what I was before and haven’t yet become what I will soon be’ (Flintoff in Dept. Store of the Mind, 2017, p.32). So far in my life, I have had no greater teacher than walking. 

This reflection has been a way of me marking the moment, celebrating the daily promise I’ve kept to myself. 

A moment of gratitude

Thank you to Alex Elle and Libby De Lana for creating the #thismorningwalk community, setting me off on this magical journey, and being wise guides along the way.

References

Andrews, K. (2020) Wanderers: A History of Women Walking. London: Reaktion Books.

Dept. Store of the Mind (2017) Walking in the Rain. London: Octopus Books.

Kagge, E. (2018) Walking: One Step at a Time. London: Viking, an imprint of Penguin Random House. 

My writing commitment: I’m learning to honour my thoughts. I’m learning that my words can be shared before I’ve connected all the dots or learned everything there is to know. My writing can be a snapshot of a single moment in continually-evolving time.

2 Responses

  1. I love how much you have found in this journey. Thank you for sharing it. Walking is my friend, we have memories, we are entwined and limitless in that friendship.

    Like you and I, you are such a special person in my world, despite time I hope that when we are together like nature, we are always waiting for each other xxxx

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