Jennifer Ann Richter
The Lost Art of Walking
“Walking is a great way to boost your creativity.” I remember hearing that for the first time at a writers’ conference fifteen years ago (yes, I’ve been attending them that long). A Stanford University study recently backed up the claim, which doesn’t surprise me, since I’ve used walks to untangle my brain and put it back together again for as long as I can remember. Now that I work part-time and have two whole weekdays free to write, I usually break up my writing session with a long meander through the wooded trails behind my house. Not only do I think about what I’m writing, but I plan the rest of the day, pray, meditate, think lofty thoughts, and just enjoy the nature around me. I’m always back home before I know it (probably because my mind’s all over the place), returning refreshed, hopeful, and usually with a new idea or two. I’ve been even struck by the occasional “Eureka!” moment.
But it’s got me thinking—what about walking just for walking’s sake? Actually, what really got me thinking about it was a very old article outline I dug up while clearing out my files. It was going to be called “The Lost Art of Walking,” and I pitched it to a few women’s magazines—particularly the ones that seemed to have an article literally every issue titled “Walk Off the Pounds!” I had intended to explore the idea of just stepping through the front door and walking one’s own neighborhood, something that people seemed to do a lot more in the olden days (well, at least in the movies).
Nowadays, if you’re caught roaming the neighborhood without a dog on a leash, a baby in a stroller, or at least wearing some kind of exercise outfit (and preferably carrying hand weights), you might get a few peeks through curtains or side-eye glances from people heading to or from their cars.
Really, some people will assume there’s something wrong with you. I remember chatting a while back with someone in law enforcement who referred to “the walkers” as if they had obvious mental issues. Now it could be that he was talking about people who exhibited additional troubling behaviors, but I’m sure there are plenty others who right away just think, “Okay, now why is this person just walking around the block for no reason?”
This is why we get into our cars and drive to designated walking places, or at least try to appear that there’s a good reason for us to be out walking aimlessly.
But we miss out. It can be quite interesting and fun to see how different things look from on foot as opposed to through a car window. Recently I took an extended walk through the rather large office park where I work. I decided to make a big circle and literally got confused on my way back to my building because things appeared so…well, different.
You not only notice things, but you also feel more connected to your surroundings. Think about it: If more people strolled their neighborhoods, those faceless, nameless beings we call neighbors become human. And after a while, we would notice when there really is some strange, suspicious figure lurking around and not go calling the cops prematurely.
Klaus and I have been taking regular strolls in the 24 years we’ve been married. We’ve gotten used to the stares. Now, I’m sure some could stem from the fact that we’re an interracial couple, but I’d like to think a lot of it is just the surprise of seeing people out walking for no reason—no leash, no sweats, no stroller. Although now that we live in a neighborhood bordering a wooded trail, the stares have mostly changed to greetings from other walkers.
Wherever life takes me, I’m going to keep on walking as long as my legs can carry me (and then I'll roll). It’s good for my mind, soul, and creativity...and maybe one day those pounds will “walk off,” too!