Writing and Photographs by Mary Edson
“All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking” Friedrich Nietzsche
I was raised among a family of walkers. Growing up, I never knew if the daily walks were more for the dogs or for the people. I began forming my own walking rituals around age 5. I walked primarily for three reasons: as a mode of transportation, I walked to school everyday; to follow the bliss of my imagination, I walked on footpaths in the forest in my backyard, admiring wildflowers and hunting for onion grass; and, as a way to cope with my emotions. I recall, the first and only time I “ran” away from home. It was more of a fast paced walk than a run and I must have been quite young, 5 or 6 years old. I walked down the street feeling rebellious and entitled to whatever alarm it caused my parents to discover that I was missing. It did not take long for me to realize that I was free. I was on my own. I had a choice of whether I was going to stay or run away. As soon as this sense of freedom and choice settled in me, I quickly turned around and walked back to my house, realizing the gravity of true freedom, and the liberation of walking.
The ritual of walking has remained in my life primarily for the same three reasons: as a mode of transportation, to satisfy my curiosities and free my imagination, and to navigate the emotional ebbs and flows of this beautiful life. When I first arrive in a new place, I walk around, I meet and greet the place with each step that I take. Sometimes, I walk aimlessly, while other times I am directed, walking the streets to install a detailed map of a place into my mind. Though, I have been walking among places for a long time, it struck me the other day that my daily stroll is one of my true loves, a profound meditation, and a silent language of listening for depth and meaning.
A way to commune with all that is beautiful and all that is true. Daily walks mark the passing of time. An observing eye traces my steps, noticing what rarely demands attention: bird’s nests on bare limbs and tucked under roofs, tire tracks on a dirt road, the skeleton frame of a leaf. I hear what is present in my immediate surroundings: ravens squawking, trucks driving somewhere in the distance, dogs barking into the abyss that is the sky. A slightly swaying tree, alerts me to the changing weather. I ponder over the landmarks in the distance and ask to know their story. History merges with the present and becomes acutely palpable.
Walking: a rhythmic movement, a motion followed by the same motion and repeated. The repetition of walking invites a state of mind which rests between dreaming and waking, a hypnogogic state of consciousness. In this state, there are possibilities not improbabilities as ideas are birthed, and creativity and intuition are nurtured.