This morning I went for a walk in the woods.
Taken at face value, there’s really nothing special about that statement. But add in the fact that I’ve been so exhausted lately, and that we recently saw one of the local black bears saunter down our neighbour’s driveway, and the phrase takes on a whole different meaning.
More specifically, then, I challenged both my exhaustion and my fear of bears by going for a walk in the woods.
It made me think of George Monbiot’s Feral and Jason Mark’s Satellites in the High Country, both of which posit that we’re more alive when we have the fear of the wild in us. We’re more alert, pay more attention to our surroundings, and move through the wilderness with more humility when we’re aware that we’re in large carnivore country (note that, in addition to bears, we also have cougars).
I’ve missed my morning walks. They not only give me a chance to stretch my legs, exercise, and bond with one of the dogs, but are also an opportunity to think through different writing ideas in my head. So many writers were (are) also walkers. Thoreau, Muir, Hemingway, JK Rowling, Dickens…all promote walking as a way of clearing your mind and improving both your mindset and your writing.
Walking is also an opportunity to step outside of my everyday life and observe challenges through a different lens. When they’re not right in your face, those challenges tend to come into clearer focus. My two biggest challenges lately have been making time to write, and making time to do fun things. As Anne Giardini writes in Startle and Illuminate, a book collecting Canadian author Carol Shields’ wisdom on writing:
“There may not be a perfect time, and there may not be as much of it as we would like, but if we can find some bits of it, and organize them in a way that makes sense, then we may be able to turn those scraps and moments into something enduring—a poem, a story, a memoir, a novel. The days cannot be stretched, but they can be shaped.”
I shaped my day to include a morning walk—a step towards doing more fun things. That walk inspired me to pursue a writing pitch that I hadn’t fully committed to. Want to know the best part? I sent in that pitch this afternoon and it was accepted.
Not only did my walking pay off in terms of writing, but it also seemed to push back some of my exhaustion. It seems like an oxymoron—walking while exhausted should make you more, rather than less, exhausted. But perhaps it’s an aftereffect of Shinrin-yoku, or ‘forest bathing’ (in the wild, where bears and cougars roam). So long as you don’t overdo it, you end up energized instead of worn down.
Tomorrow I’ll try that walk again. We’ll see what wildlife and writing it brings.