Robson on… Restorative strolling


In two previous pieces I wrote about walking alone and in company. It feels remiss to write about walking at the moment and not properly acknowledge the current situation and how walking can help. 

Our current choice of walking companions or lack there of, is somewhat imposed upon us but walking can still provide nourishment. As you are probably aware, with all the current extra anxiety and uncertainty in the world it is important to give our brains a chance to reset, recalibrate, relax. We will all be dealing with lockdown in our own ways but below is a short list of simple ‘walk-experiments’ that might help, particularly if you are struggling with isolation, anxiety or just good old fashioned boredom.

First up, go for a walk. You’ll feel better afterwards.  

Go for a walk and try counting your steps. Don’t use fitbit (other pedometers are available), or if you do, count yourself as well and compare the totals. Counting your steps involves you directly in the act of walking. By the end of lockdown know exactly how many steps each street around you home is, how many steps it is to the shops or the pub (this might prove useful when it reopens). These distances will be in your very own measurement, as it will be your paces and no one else's.

Go for a walk and look for angles, curves, straight lines in the buildings or natural environment around you home. You will almost certainly find something you had never seen before. You might find patterns in the lintels on a particular street, there might be a particular curve to a section of river or path that catches your eye.

Go for a walk at the same time each day. If you are working from home, or do not currently have work to go to, this will help create a routine. If you limit your walk to one hour, as you should, you won’t get too cold or too wet at this time of year and you’ll always be quite close to your house should a spring storm provide too much of a soaking. Note what changes, the light, the flora, the fauna, the atmosphere, the pavement.

Go for walk at different times each day. Walk an hour at each hour of the day for 24 days. For example, day one, walk from 0700 to 0800, day two, walk from 0800 to 0900 and so on. The 0200 to 0300 walk on this one is a challenge but a reward too.

In Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction, a long poem on the making of poetry, Wallace Stevens considers the act of walking and the finding of a version of ‘truth’, he writes,

… Perhaps

The truth depends on a walk around a lake,

A composing as the body tires,

Your walks do not have to help you compose lines of poetry, or reveal a cosmic truth of the universe, but they might reveal an interesting truth about your neighbourhood, your street, your local park. They might reveal something about a part of your area that you have not been aware of before. Think of your own walk-experiments too (if you have children, once they come round to the idea, they are good thinking of new walking ideas). 

So, try to give yourself some time to consider the outside and, most importantly of all, go for a walk.