Walking is magic. Can’t recommend it highly enough. I read that Plato and Aristotle did much of their brilliant thinking together while ambulating. The movement, the meditation, the health of the blood pumping, and the rhythm of footsteps… this is a primal way to connect with one’s deeper self.
– Paula Cole
As part of my ongoing therapy, not only am I increasingly inhooped by a rising bricolage of motivational tomes and workbooks; but I find myself engulfed in periodic upsurges of rippling diaries, forms, and tables: a flux of unsullied A4 wavelets, tiding over me as temporary succour; busying me; until, eventually – when they are progressively overlaid with my records, registers, and particoloured responses – they crystallize into frangible stepping-stones, leading me steadily ashore. Rush ahead too expeditiously, though, and these will crumble, along with my tentative betterment. Forbearance is key – especially when allied with deep trust, hard listening, and terrifying honesty: the underpinnings of hope, if not yet achievement.
Although the bleak breakers of depression still suck strongly at my ankles, occasionally I will find terra firma from which to pivot my gaze; to catch a fleeting apparition of perspective and solidity. But that murky oceanscape will never fade from view – my cognitive tomorrows lived always upon its foreshore; my mind loitering forever upon its littoral ambivalence; combing through its bombarded debris for the nuggets, chunks, and conceptual fragments from which to knowingly construct keen intent.
But in every walk with Nature one receives far more than he seeks.
– John Muir
Crucial amongst this fickle flotsam are ‘values’ – especially as defined by the acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) I am undergoing. And one pursuit crops up more than most when I (am made to) analyze my own: whether the classification is ‘Marriage/couples/intimate relations’, ‘Recreation/fun/leisure’, ‘Spirituality’, ‘Citizenship/environment/community life’, or ‘Health/physical wellbeing’. That word, of course, is “walking”. (Coincidentally, I also list this distraction as a ‘Type of pain treatment’ – although I set down its ‘Short-term effects on pain’ as “Absolutely awful!” – but its ‘Long-term effects on quality of life’ as “Amazing…!”)
And yet, until last week – as with so many of the activities I (should) cherish – my melancholy had quashed its enchantment. Not only that: but I had grown anxious of its effects, its consequences, its repercussions – especially for my physical health – however improbable. To decisively ignore these (if not completely let go of them) would be to stride out of that maritime despondency – boots dripping with reproach, admittedly… – and for the shackles of my charcoal imagination to be dissipated by the glorious realities.
All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.
– Friedrich Nietzsche
I have therefore begun rebuilding my desire, my dependency: my ever-deepening footprints accompanied by the realization (provoked by more curative homework) that their stimulation comes from more than the mere stretching of limbs. It is not just ‘Exercise’… – it endows ‘Pleasure’, ‘Relaxation’, and ‘Mastery’ (“a sense of satisfaction when… completed”). It also provides the photographic and verbal inspiration (as here) required to rebuild the extensive aesthetically-motivated component of my identity… – for, in the last week, I have overcome the drawn-out diminuendo of my disinclination and dread, on average, every other day – widening my geographical bounds as I launch into the crescendo of my corporeal jurisdiction. In essence, my peregrinations have grown more perilous, more venturesome: thus soothing my inordinate worries as I satiate my indulgent wanderlust – the fulfilment (in rendering anxiety voiceless) itself immeasurable.
For many, the distances I have covered – both with my wits and with my walking stick (and with the pounding echo of that surf yet audible) – may seem insignificant; but they are to me as Armstrong’s “giant leap”: the accomplishment of what was once unimaginable; triumphs that must animate more of the same, must render success unexceptional, habitual – …as before.
An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.
– Henry David Thoreau
Thus far, my feet have carried me through the tree-spotted fields, and beside the staged canals, of my old stomping grounds between Packwood House and Baddesley Clinton; have unhurriedly sloped up Centenary Way towards Upton House, accompanied by love and larksong; and looped alone alongside the Avon from RSC to Rec and back – vacated by less stoic visitors dispersed by stinging northerlies to the toastiness of tea-rooms and comfort of coffee-houses. And my reason has realized, recognized, what I always had known… – that life is more refulgent when set in opposition to (or simply seen through) a frame, a grille, a graticule of tenebrity; that the sun rises more gloriously when viewed with night’s foresight; that light truly makes no sense deprived of such darkness; that our shadows compel the beams which craft them… as the shore compels the waves.
I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.
I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.
I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.
– John Masefield: Sea Fever