While We Walk by Anna Fox
Dogs have it right. They know they’re onto a good thing when they’re going for a walk.
We’re all walking in our droves at the moment, taking the opportunity to leave the house without breaking the rules. And as we navigate our walk, we navigate this strange new way of living. We can be fast and purposeful, our excursion a means of exercise and staying healthy, or slow and contemplative, in reflective mood. Whichever way we do it, our walk moves us out of our heads and into our bodies. We fall into rhythm with ourselves and the world, the steady beat of our feet reflecting and magnifying our hearts beating within us.
We step onto the road to make way for another pedestrian and we nod to each other in respect and recognition: I’m aware of you, I respect your health...never before have so many been so aware of the space around them and how we all move through it. Cars slow down to let us cross so that another person walking towards us can maintain their distance. We’re becoming more thoughtful and patient. We’re slowing down and we’re taking our time.
As we walk, we breathe. We become conscious of our breath. The sharpness of the morning air that shocks and opens our airways or the whiff of narcissus that stops us in our tracks. We sniff the air for more of its sweetness and look to see where it’s coming from. There is warmth in the afternoon spring sun, and and we lift our faces heavenwards...it’s all delicious. We take in lungfuls of it and we remember those who are struggling to breathe at all...we count our blessings and walk on.
As writers, we tend to look in. We spin worlds out of ourselves. We reflect and think and play with words in our heads and on the page to best express what it is we’re trying to say. Our new daily walk presents an opportunity to look out, and up, and around; to be in the moment. It gives us a chance to move to the beat of our own drum again, and replenish the wells of our imagination.
This is our new, temporary normal. Let’s make it count. Our conscious experience of these solitary walks can imbue our words with new textures, life and meaning. For us as writers, there are hidden treasures to be found, so when we step out we must consciously move into our bodies, engage our senses and breathe purposefully.
Exercises for you to do:
1. As you walk, engage your senses. What do you see, hear, smell? What can you taste in the air? Remember to look UP (but best for now, to resist touch).
2. When you get home, time yourself for 10 minutes and describe the scene you passed through.
3. Now do it again, without using adjectives.
3. If you walk the same route regularly, how does the scene change at different times of the day?
3. Consider how the space around you feels.
4. What is a world without touch?
Anna Fox is the Founder and Director of Dalkey Creates Writing Festival and Storytellers.ie. She also has a publishing imprint and is currently writing a non-fiction book for writers.