Walking and thinking

‘In non-Western cultures, the ideas of footfall as knowledge and walking as thinking are widespread…’ writes Robert MacFarlane in his atmospheric and fascinating book The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot.  Walking is so often linked to cognition.  It helps me find the headspace I need to gain clarity and a truer perspective.  Frédéric and I had the opportunity to experience this a couple of days ago, when we walked down wooded country lanes and past sloping farmland to Joss Bay.


The sand at Joss Bay was almost warm.

Winding down…

On the way, Fred and I were companions, sometimes talking to discuss curiosities such as a field of cauliflower and a sea of thin polythene covering a crop, waves rippling uphill.  Yet, mostly we were silent and experienced time winding down.  It felt like entering another zone, or ‘wild time’ like that described in Terry Wilding’s post ‘The Wild Time of the Sickbed’, where she discusses contexts where we experience time differently, either through obligation or conscious choice.


With this slowing down of time, nature enchants us and we enter a meditative state.  The roads were quiet, but the pretty whistling and tweeting of unknown pale birds, flitting from bush to tree, rose in volume and heightened in clarity.  I became aware of my breathing, tasting the purity of the sea air.  Stopping to notice detail such as patterns on the sky-blue speedwell at the roadside.  There is more to this than thinking…


Speedwell at the roadside.

Then there was the real Spring light.  Branches meeting above us, against a delicate blue sky.  I tried to capture it with my poor-quality phone camera. Just be aware that these pictures only give a hint as to the beauty of the colour, light and shade.


Bare tree against blue sky.

Then there is always a word…

Or two in fact…  I also learnt from Robert MacFarlane’s book that ‘saunter’ is derived from the French ‘sans terre’ which itself is a derivative of ‘à la Saint Terre’ meaning ‘to the sacred place’.  Then in Arabic there is ‘sarha’, with the combined meaning of walking with freedom and experiencing delight.  Not all walks are quite as good as this, but something good comes from them all.

Back through time

The following day I walked along a busy road with my daughter.  Slowing down and being aware of our senses we discovered the scent of eucalyptus.  We picked up some leaves which had fallen on the ground and enjoyed the aroma, triggering nostalgia for time spent in Australia.  As the aborigines from that country knew, walking also takes us back through our history.  We never know where we might end up.  I thought I was just going to Asda…