Updated: Aug 13, 2020
Read this. Then go take a walk.
“Men must walk at least before they dance.” — Alexander Pope
I agree with Alexander Pope. Dancing is fabulous, but not everyone is willing to do it. (They’re too self-conscious, too stiff, or too Walking, on the other hand, (or other foot,) is something able-bodied people do every day, not just as a method for getting from one place to another but as a way to unwind.
A walk enlivens our soul. A stroll helps us explore our world. We take deep breathes, watch the clouds, inhale the scents lingering in the air around us. We meander. We ramble. We promenade along pathways and saunter down sidewalks. We walk to touch nature and find ourselves.
Now, at this point, I could list the dry, bullet-points of studies that have proven the numerous benefits of a daily walk:
It lowers blood pressure
It decreases body weight and body fat
It alleviates depression
It reduces the number of days you spend in the hospital
It lowers the risk of stroke
And — this is a big one — it increases creative output by an average of 60 percent. (No wonder great writers like Vladimir Nabakov, Virginia Woolf, and James Joyce walked. Scholars even believe that William Wordsworth walked 180,000 miles in his lifetime!)
But putting the activity of walking in such clinical terms does not do it justice. It is so much more than a healthy exercise.
Walking is its own special kind of body bliss, a musical marriage of mind and muscle.
Even people who are tone-deaf with absolutely no melody in their voices and no rhythm in their bodies have an inherent rhythm when walking: a step, slide, stride.
This pattern of movement begins to mark a cadence deep within the mind, and the natural body rhythm of walking stirs memories of long-forgotten words and thoughts, “A Walker’s Soliloquy,” if you will.
Striding through the seasons
In the fall, when my nose runs and my lips are chapped by raw wind, a snatch of poetry comes to me as suddenly as a sneeze:
“The melancholy days are come, the saddest of the year Of wailing winds, and naked woods, and meadows brown and sere.” — William Cullen Bryant
Entranced by the beauty of a winter storm, I trudge through the virgin snow and think of Robert Frost’s confused horse who
“…must think it queer to stop without a farmhouse near between the woods and frozen lake the darkest evening of the year.”
In spring, I celebrate surviving the winter. An April walk brings thanks that the harsh winter is over and reminds me of the joyous words in the Song of Solomon:
“For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone The flowers appear on the earth; The time of the singing of birds is come, And the voice of the turtledove is heard throughout the land. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.”
With spring come the inevitable rain showers. But for devoted walkers, even rain can be a stimulus, and Barbara Streisand’s unforgettable “Don’t Rain on My Parade” definitely rings in my head.
A walk under a gentle drizzle reminds me of Jim Croce’s “Alabama Rain” and the boy who went to the University of Alabama and broke my teenage heart.
But if you’re walking in a cloudburst shakes your confidence and you’re unsure what to do, think of Rogers and Hammerstein’s wisdom:
“When you walk through a storm, Keep your head up high, And don’t be afraid of the dark.”
Spurred by activity your brain may recall other lyrics: For a macho image, hum
For testing new shoes with a vengeance, try
And for nighttime escapades, think of Patsy Cline —
“I go out walkin’ after midnight Out in the moonlight Just like we used to do, I’m always walkin’ After midnight, searchin’ for you.”
For those who easily lose their direction or suffer memory loss, sing
“I have often walked down this street before There is no place else on earth that I have been before.”
Let the rhythm of your stride recall the words in your heart, providing you with a soliloquy every bit as eloquent as Hamlet’s. Let your mind wander. Will move, your brain will simmer, and creative thoughts will flow with every step.
You’ll be healthier. Happier. More creative. And even though you’re alone, the poems in your paces will keep you company.