If you know me at all, you know that I don’t tend to take leisurely walks. Certainly not for exercise, and usually not even for pleasure. Too much to do, time better spent elsewhere, etc. But one of the things I learned over the years of learning to write is that taking a walk is usually the shortest distance between a creative problem and its solution.
“Few people know how to take a walk. The qualifications are endurance, plain clothes, old shoes, an eye for nature, good humor, vast curiosity, good speech, good silence and nothing too much.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
There’s an ideal lull of activity during the months of January and February, a space of possibility and calm that opens up between winter and spring breaks. In Houston, these are often the crispest days, cool and bugless, with plenty of sunshine. Perfect walking weather. So today, I looked at the empty chair in my office and asked my muse, “Shall we go, then?”
Inspire (v.) to fill the mind with grace, to animate with an idea or purpose.
Walking is like meditation: there’s the initial distraction of mind chatter and list-making, of the vague feeling of guilt for not doing something else more productive. Then, after about seven minutes, I begin to relax, to breathe more deeply and intentionally. The busy thinking quiets down, and I become aware of the scents in the air, the din of outside noises, the warmth of the sunshine on my skin. Slowly, my mind begins to empty itself of the flotsam and jetsam that often interrupt my thoughts. There is stillness, but I’m not still. My body is occupied with the methodical rhythm of walking, which allows me to concentrate—with grace, with purpose—on today’s problem, that of the character I know but don’t know.
“Me thinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow.” ~Henry Thoreau
As I walked, I could see her more clearly. As the minutes and meters collected behind me, I gained a confident awareness of the solution. There was a brief and startling moment: Yes! Yes! I turned the corner, tucking these gathered ideas into myself for safekeeping. I walked quickly home with grace and purpose, with my muse—if there is one—a few steps behind me.
“Above all, do not lose your desire to walk…I have walked myself into my best thoughts, and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it. If one keeps on walking, everything will be all right.” ~Søren Kierkegaard
Everything will be all right.