‘If you are seeking creative ideas, go out walking…
angels whisper to a man when he goes for a walk.’
What began as an idle thought in the middle of a long and cold Melbourne winter, gradually evolved into a lifestyle that continually captures my imagination, inspires me to do and see more, stretches the boundaries of mind and body, induces a healthy, strong body, and teaches more about myself, nature, and the place I call home.
Not to be mistaken for daily exercise, nor to be thought of as a now-and-again activity, Walking The World has become part of the ordinary moments of my life. It’s accessible. Something I do almost every day or for several days or weeks at a time. Whether you simply open the front door and take the nearest pathway, walk the forests or beside local rivers and ocean, or travel further afield to walk wilderness trails, you experience nature and the environment in all its wildness and freedom. The world walked by Thoreau might have been a very different to today’s landscape, but the feeling expressed when he wrote, ‘I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits unless I spend a day at least —and it is commonly more than that—sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields absolutely free from all worldly engagements,’ is universal.
When on Walkabout, Indigenous Australians are not focused on arriving somewhere. They are absorbed by the journey, the act of putting one foot in front of the other, the rhythm of breath, the light, changing landscape, the silence and the feeling of absorbing the landscape, becoming part of the trees, the sky, the ocean.
Walking is a natural instinct. To walk, taking the familiar track or the paths most definitely less traveled, has become a pattern by which I wind the clock of my life. At some point in the walk, body rhythm slows down and settles into harmony that allows your mind to roam free in it’s creative landscape. Monkey chatter of the mind subsides. Like diving deep into the ocean, silence and stillness reigns. Creative ideas and images appear out of nowhere, out of nothingness.
There exists an entire sub-culture of people walking the streets of their city, the wilder bush and ocean tracks and the myriad of winding walking/cycling paths. As a writer, I’m able to fit my working life around going walking. When the idea conceived itself on that cold winter’s day, I gradually gathered a network of friends and family, spin-doctoring the benefits of a leisurely stroll and, not wanting to frighten them off before we began, I broke them in gently and I rotated the walks and the walkers.
Together we have witnessed the silence of sunrise, the pause before that same sun sinks below the horizon leaving the earth basked in the indigo light of dusk. Sauntering along an overgrown creek, whip birds calling, fills us with joy. The tree that has been stark and bare all winter develops spring buds and we’re ecstatic. A lyrebird, tail fanned, dances its courtship, imitates a myriad of other birds, fascinates.
A friend recently asked me, ‘but what do you actually DO when you go walking? Do you talk, not talk, take photos?’
Going walking isn’t about the need to do. It’s space in the day to allow yourself to be drawn to what attracts. To choose to face east and walk anti-clockwise, or to sit under a tall and wide gum tree with peeling bark and eat the sandwich carried in your day pack. It’s listening to the song lines of the earth. It’s leaving footprints in the soil and in your memory bank. It’s paving the way for the footprints of the future.
Going walking is being present with this footstep, this breath. And, if you listen carefully, you might hear the angels who are said to whisper to those who go for a walk.