When I was a melancholic teenager emerging from a book with a bored frown, my father would say, “Saddle up — go for a ride”.
Wind in my hair and a view of acres and the world beyond replaced the tunnel vision of my bedroom. The outdoors cured my grumpiness.
Now when my writing stalls or I feel lethargic, leaving the screen or couch to be outside, walking, gardening or smelling the roses, still transform me.
In grey early mornings, worries can press heavily until I get up and take a walk, letting saner perspectives surface. On busy days, solitary walking slows my body as the mind catches up.
I’m present and noticing things, confusion gives way to clarity and I see things differently.
Over centuries writers, thinkers and artists have acknowledged walking frees the subconscious to suggest solutions to glitches on their creative paths.
Thoreau said, “Me thinks that the moment my legs begin to move my thoughts begin to flow.” Dickens, Lawrence and Virginia Woolf, among many other writers, famously used walking to get in touch with themselves — and their work.
Hemingway wrote, “I would walk…trying to think things out. It was easier to think when I was walking.’
Sagas are often based on epic walks. Bill Bryson’s walk in the woods became a famous book, and Robyn Davidson’s walk with camels across Australia resulted in “Tracks”, both a book and a film.
In all spheres of life, all sorts of people use walking to solve dilemmas, and often to push through physical pain and emotional grief.
Walking with other people can deepen conversations, enhance friendships and lead to bonding and sharing.
In whatever form, walking is widely accepted as a path towards both physical and mental wellbeing, and the outdoors, I still find, mysteriously changes my mood.
Lorraine McLoughlin is an author with community ties to the Fleurieu Coast. For more see www.fitzmcl.com.