Sunday 14 January 2018

Walking into a New Year

This is the time of year when there's a lot of talk about new year's resolutions - often with regard to improving one's commitment to an exercise regime. I'm the kind of person who thinks we can change things in our life at any time - not just at landmark moments like turning the page of a calendar - and I also believe in having some sort of daily physical activity that doesn't involve making a special effort that could prove difficult to maintain. However, I do believe a new year can be an excellent time to acknowledge what works in our lives and, in doing so, reinforce good habits.

One of my own favourite habits is my daily practice of getting out for a walk. Sometimes it's a short-ish amble, other times it's a vigorous hike that goes on for hours, or even days. For me, walking simply feels good on a physical level. I love the way my body moves naturally, the way my heart rate elevates with a hill or a bit of speed, the rhythmic feel of my stride, and how I become aware of my posture. 

Physical benefits aside, it's also a mental break - a time to problem-solve, or come up with fresh ideas, or sort through some nagging issue, or simply to daydream. Sometimes I memorize poetry while I walk. 

As an artist, walking sustains my creativity. I never know what I'll see to inspire me! Other times a moment of simple beauty will intangibly nourish my creative spirit. I might not rush home and create a piece of art based on that moment, but it reinforces how gorgeous the world is and reminds me to appreciate my place in it.

My favourite kind of walk involves a beach

Walking might appear to be a solitary pastime but I don't feel like I'm ever alone. My trusty cocker spaniel Lily is virtually always by my side, plus there are the other dogs and people we sometimes meet, and the wild creatures we invariably encounter - birds and occasionally something larger. Sometimes I walk with a human friend and we have a chance to chat and catch up on one another's lives. Always my thoughts and ideas and memories keep me company.

My coloured pencil portrait of my walking companion Lily.

Above all, going for a walk is an opportunity to be outdoors, to breathe the air, and to appreciate the simple gifts life offers. I'm particularly fond of walking in wild spaces but any space will do. When I'm on a ferry, as I often am, I like to walk laps around the deck - benefiting from the physical activity and appreciating the ever changing vista of sea and shoreline.

A summer sunset viewed from a ferry deck.

I have celebrated walking in a couple of past silk paintings and I have more ideas for this series that I'm hoping to execute before too long.

Walking the Dog - October

Walking the Dog - April

While walking, I have captured countless other moments that eventually work their way into my art.

My silk painting Dune Walker which originated
during a beach walk in Mexico.

I have made momentous decisions, such as during my 2016 sojourn in the Grand Canyon where I tested my physical abilities and found the inner strength I needed to move forward in my life.

I have seen sights I would not encounter other than on foot.

My pastel drawing of Oystercatchers as seen on one of
my favourite Mayne Island walks

Much has been said about the value of walking. Recently I picked up an illustrated book of quotations by Henry David Thoreau for whom walking and nature were as fundamental to life as breathing. His enthusiasm for walking in all kinds of weather is inspiring and helps me to get out the rain gear on those soggy days that are so plentiful here on the "wet" coast. I also recently read an article on how the simple practice of walking sets our minds free to roam in creative directions - something essential for those of us involved in art making. And of course the physical benefits of daily exercise are not to be sneezed at either. The ways in which our bodies and our brains benefit are well documented. 

On that note, I am walking purposefully into 2018 - not only because of its many benefits for my body, mind and spirit, and for the creative inspiration, but because of the simple joy it brings me. 

Now I'm off to put on my walking shoes. Come on Lily!

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