Category Archives: walking

Walking in the World

White Point sign

BY KIMBERLY MAYER

There are people in our lives who have an influence they’d never know. My parents instilled a love for Cape Cod that we find in many ways living here on San Juan Island in Washington. The friend in California who suggested a year or so ago that I rein in this blog to a remodeling theme: remodeling a house, remodeling a life—the same thing, in my book. Our daughter, now living in Argentina, who upon visiting before her departure grew my daily walk by a beautiful mile or two. And in sending me a video of the works of sculptor Anthony Howe on neighboring Orcas Island, my cousin in Atlanta reminding me to stay with art every day. And to try not to stray.

They are all part and parcel of who I am, why I’m here, and how I see it.

“Walking the loop” began as a tradition while living on upper Queen Anne in Seattle and continues out here today. That first loop took me around the perimeter of the hill, overlooking the Space Needle and downtown Seattle, Lake Union, and Puget Sound. Today’s loop takes me alongside Westcott Bay, and through the red, white and blue nostalgic quality of Roche Harbor Resort where everyone looks good in the light. Finally, the road meanders through an old growth forest of cedar, fir, and pine where everything grows dark and green, and back to my home on the bay.

Where the road dips down to the shoreline I experience what I call a Cape Cod moment, framed by flatlands, grasses, marshes, and horizon. In the course of this walk I may pass only one or two cars on the road, a few more in summer, on an island where every driver waves.

This is the walk my daughter grew, taking it out on a point to new terrain, the posh end of White Point Road. Here I pass tennis courts where nobody’s playing, a pond with a dock establishing someone’s swimming hole, and a private golf course back in there somewhere, for I’ve seen it from the water. Horse fencing and regally high pampas grasses standing like sentry guide the way. Crushed white shells underfoot line the one-lane road at sea level. It’s as private as private can be, except for me, out on this point.

Here I gape at houses, something that seems to be my lot in life: the desire to see myself in other spaces, other places. On walks I finish unfinished houses in my mind, or tear them down and start again. As anyone in the field knows, design is never done. When the bones are good, I may mentally repaint it, or envision it clad in cedar shingles, dark, red, natural or a weathered gray.

At home, the short video on the kinetic sculpture of Anthony Howe awaits me. It’s mesmerizing. How did my cousin know to send this now? I needed it. Isn’t art what ultimately pulls us through? All the arts, always. And art as balm, particularly in troubling times. Which is where we are today.

“After reading the newspaper on Sunday, I sit quietly and simply look at art books.” Michael Graves

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Just Doing It

How to be your own personal trainer. I should be able to do this. Look at how I have taken to writing. First thing in the morning, before getting dressed, before going online or going anywhere, I write my Morning Pages. And while I hope to make more of a dent in the writing world than just being a disciple of Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way,” I find a certain comfort in that. What else would explain why I have practiced it for more than a dozen years?

Sitting each day for Morning Pages is my zazen.

Now I am hoping to bring about another practice in the form of physical exercise. The longer I live, the more connections I see between things. Walking, writing, they are the same. In writing and in walking I am making the same expression in different mediums.

“We live as we move,” writes Julia Cameron, “a step at a time, and there is something in gentle walking that reminds me of how I must live if I am to savor this life I have been given.”

I have started with walking the 4.3 miles of The Loop daily, no ifs, ands, or buts. https://alittleelbowroom.com/2013/04/03/the-loop/

At one time I had a personal trainer. Well, I hired a friend to walk with me. Not that I don’t love to walk, I do. But this was different. She was younger, thinner, more fit than I, and faster. Whereas I am basically a browser and overly interested in homes and gardens.

One of the first things she insisted on was that I leave my little dog at home. I felt bad about that, but there would be no sniffing around in the bushes or wandering off in the grass for us. We had to hightail it every step of the way.

There is nothing like the power of the knock on the door. A personal trainer comes to your place and there is nowhere to hide and no way out. Throw in the friendship factor, and I didn’t want to inconvenience her by canceling. So I never did. Whereas left to my own devices I can come up with a million reasons why I haven’t the time: the house needs cleaning, the garden needs weeding, the manuscript needs editing, or I can convince myself that what I really need is a nap.

Now my friend has moved and I am on my own again, trying to make it happen every day. My technique is to pretend that I am her, not me. I know all my tricks too well: the penchant for short-cuts, the stop-in-my-tracks gazing at view. In other words, I have to be her to push me. It’s still a joint effort.

Then, with The Loop under my belt, I find I go out of my way to add as many more miles as I can in the course of the day. As in, one good turn deserves another. Here I think like a NYC woman, or think environmentally, and walk everywhere I can. It helps to live in a city or live in a town, but that market may be closer than you realize.

Hoping I will become as addicted to my mileage stats as I am to my blog stats on the WordPress website, my tech savvy daughters have given me a fitbit to track myself each day. Again: walking, writing, it’s the same thing. I’m getting it, really I am.

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Becoming Jane, Emily, and Joyce

The only thing I can think to blame on books is my falling way behind with films. I finally viewed, just this week, the 2007 film, “Becoming Jane.” I must do this more often. And while I may never catch up with films in general, I would like to categorically run through the complete collection of what I call writers’ films. Films like: “Adaptation,” “Sideways,” “Wonder Boys,” and “Joe Gould’s Secret.” There are so many more. “The Hours,” “Finding Forrester,” “Finding Neverland….”

“Becoming Jane” belongs on this list. In the course of the one hundred and twenty minutes of this film I was submerged in a profound tranquility that, for the most part, has remained with me all week. I’m talking about Jane Austen’s time and place, when she was twenty years old, falling in love, and well at work on her craft. The year was 1795 and I am thinking: how much easier to become a writer in simpler times! Let me explain. Jane Austen did not have to turn off all the white noise, bombastic media, and pry herself away from social media in an effort to find her own thoughts. The film, like the time, was so astonishingly quiet. The screen also went dark a lot. That’s another matter but much the same thing. When it was night it was dark, inside and out, as it should be. Candlelit rooms, playing the piano for music, and social gatherings in which Jane would read her work aloud. I am enamored with how uncluttered the psyche could be in such a setting. Clearly, the writers who came before us had this advantage. An artist requires solitude. Emily Dickenson went to extremes and protected hers with reclusion. Jane Austen had a relatively quiet house, loving family, and an idyllic woods in which she constantly went walking.

There is much in that too: living close to nature and the habit of walking. Joyce Carol Oates reflects on her own childhood in upstate New York in the 1950’s, “Because, I assume, I grew up in the country… most of my waking life when I wasn’t actually in school was in nature—meaning primarily silence, and solitude.” Intuitively, it seems, young Joyce knew to turn away from the television and radio in favor of reading, and “… hiking/ wandering/ prowling for hours, along the creek; through woods, pastures, farmland; nearly always alone, and drawn to aloneness. The old farmhouses/ barns… The Tonawanda Creek, the eerie underside of the bridge. Tramping for miles… just walking, walking.” As a novelist, Joyce Carol Oats has drawn from these early years in nearly all of her works. Today we may have to go out of our way to reach the parks and open spaces, but find them we must.

Solitude, nature, and the importance of walking. Listen to Kierkegaard on the subject of walking, “Above all, do not lose your desire to walk: every day I walk myself into a state of well-being and away from every illness; I have walked myself into my best thoughts, and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it.” Writers understand this. Walking clears the head and seems to solve problems. Good ideas come on walks. Walking taps the well from which our stories come up, and we must go it alone and go every day.

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Filed under nature, walking, writers' films, Writing