We walk for many reasons – utility, leisure, relaxation. Sometimes alone, sometimes with others. Walking is an act of connecting, with ourselves, our thoughts, with the world around us. We may be attentive to our surroundings or lost in thought, playful or serious.
The following is an invitation to walk consciously, to walk with awareness, with our imaginations, with our bodies, taking in the sights, smells, sounds and textures around us, beneath our feet. To be aware of memories and associations that arise with each step.
A walk does not have to take long. It can be a matter of minutes as much as hours. Step into your comfortable shoes, head out of the door – even if only into your garden, or street – or, beyond into an unfamiliar place. Catch a bus or train, drive, stopping at an unknown destination and begin to walk whichever way you fancy.
Walk with a question
Think of a question/statement– e.g., ‘What is my relationship to walking?’ ‘Places Remember Events….’ Walk with this question/statement in mind, noticing your surroundings, the immediate and distant, memories, associations and feelings.
Walking the rim of a glass
Spread your map on the table, place a glass down on the map, and draw a circle around it, then go out and walk around the line (the size of glass will reflect the distance to travel). Note what happens when you have to deviate from the line – points of dissention or triumph – What is the area like around you? How does it make you feel? What gets in the way of the line? What are your physical and emotional reactions when this happens?
Use a Smartphone App like Drift or Trespass. Follow its instructions as precisely as you can. Note where it takes you – do you discover unfamiliar places?
What are they like? How do you feel following instructions?
Just go, get out there, in whichever direction you want. Follow your own curiosity, or your mood or your feet. Do you want to be alone/ in a crowd/climb high/see water/woods/fields/buildings? Note what happens as you walk, your physical and emotional reactions to place, the feelings, associations and memories evoked, especially at points where you change direction.
The map precedes the territory
Plot your route on a map first, then walk it exactly. How does the map compare to the actual walk? What assumptions do you have? It is easy to follow? How does the map change the way you walk? What do you discover? What information does the map provide? What information is missing?
Random – roll the dice
Create your own algorithm. One for forward, two for back, three left, four right, five roll again, six, wild card.
Mindful Walking – Using the senses
Walk methodically, noting: 5 things you see/ 5 things you hear/5 things you smell. 5 things you can feel/touch. Note how they change as you walk. Which of your senses is least/most dominant?
When you have completed three or four cycles, add:
- What associations/memories does this place hold for me?
- How do I feel about it? (e.g., anxious/lighthearted)
Macro to Micro
Find a path away from a road – it could be in the middle of a field or wood – anywhere, where you can walk for 10-20 paces (or 5 mins on your phone timer), and walk very, very slowly – so slowly you can feel your feet rise and fall, sense your muscles moving. Take note of your body, your breathing. Narrow your vision to what is immediately around you, as if you are drawing a small circle. What can you hear/smell/touch? Stop at a point which particularly interests you and zoom in even closer (this could be down to a lump of soil or blade of grass) and focus on it. Can you name it or describe it? What associations/imaginings does it conjure?
CHECK-IN (some general thoughts)
As you walk, you may want to consider:
- The relationship between your mind and body: how your pace changes and why.
- What does the ground feel like under your feet?
- Where does your mind drift? What triggers memories and associations.
- What would you do if you no-one was looking/or if you were a child?
- What do you feel?
You may want to capture your walks by taking pictures, keeping notes, sketches, picking up found objects on your way, using voice memos on your phone, (but do not let the walk capture you).
If you walk with others, observe a period of silence. Make time post-walk to discuss your experiences: the similarities and differences.
Writing the Map is funded by The Arts Council.
For further information, contact:
Email: createlearnconnect@gmail. Com