When I read about the Lines in the Landscape residency and followed Kate Greens’ posts recording her walking practice in the Green Room blog I thought about my own experiences of walking.
As a child living in the countryside we didn’t ‘go for walks’ we simply ‘walked’ - the thought of orchestrating a formal walk seemed alien, amusing even - walking was being – it simply happened. Years later living in a city I walked for hours relishing my proximity to others.
Now, as an artist and mother, I consider the walks I take and it is with a sense of some shame that I admit that my habitual morning walk with dogs Elsa and Lola is overshadowed by a preoccupation of thoughts. Why, I wonder now, do I spend this time – outside with nature – stuck inside my head? Aside from benefitting the dogs with a run and my body with a 15 minute walk I’ve not valued this opportunity to breathe fresh air and ‘be’.
I’ve walked in a repeated, unbroken loop around the field next to my house almost every day for the past eighteen months. Keeping close to the hedge line I have worn a clear path through the meadow. In winter when the ground is wet underfoot and my pacing muddies the path I have worn secondary routes to avoid slipping in my own tracks. The loop records unhappy times that anticipated and led up to the breakup of my marriage and the path holds my saddest realisations of distressing and life changing times.
The function of the walk has been one of contemplation, of time to myself but it has bound me to my thoughts and tied me to my well-trodden ‘worry’ lines.
Thinking about the walking experiences of others and the walks across the Rodd I have had with colleagues, artists and young people broke the spell of my sullen walks around the meadow. I have begun to look up, taking deep breaths in, audibly sounding out my observations of the beautiful, the transitory and the traces of history to make real and to recognise the value of each moment – outside my head, outside in nature, outside.