Despite the common attitude that walks in the country are superior, I prefer urban walks for the variety of people and scenery, the potential of endless combinations. As an introvert from a small town, I also learned early on that cities are great places to be among people without having to worry about being different, because everyone is different. (“In the city, one is alone because the world is made up of strangers,” Solnit writes, “and to be a stranger surrounded by strangers, to walk along silently bearing one’s secrets and imagining those of the people one passes, is among the starkest of luxuries.”) Days spent exploring San Francisco, Montreal, or Paris with my wife are not only some of my favorite walks, but some of my favorite memories. Urban hiking is a perfect mesh with my love of urban photography, but there are interesting sights in any locale. Photography provides an obvious link between creativity and walking. At times, the camera becomes a wall that separates me from the world as I focus too intently on creating memories that I never really lived. Other times, the camera immerses me more fully in the world as I scout out details I hadn’t noticed before, like the wind on the few leaves that winter hasn’t yet stolen from a maple tree.
Time is essential to walking, because the experience of walking connects us to other times and all times. Climbing mountains or combing beaches reminds us of the past on a geologic scale. The more recent past is foremost when we consider the built environment. Around this particular lake, one passes Florida Southern College, the largest single-site collection of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture in the world. Ten Wright-designed buildings, and two additional structures, can be found here; ground was broken on the first in 1938. None of the Wright-designed buildings face the lake, but the building pictured above was designed by Wright protege Nils Schweizer; Schweizer designed five buildings on this campus and prominent modernist architecture throughout central Florida.
Walking takes us through the present time and current events. Some local residents continue to lose their minds over this traffic roundabout, installed not so long ago to increase pedestrian safety. A walk or march is still a popular and non-violent way to draw attention to a current injustice or other situations. Over 200,000 people attended the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963, and groups across the United States recently marched on Martin Luther King, Jr., Day to remind us that we still have far to go when it comes to equality for all.
These kinds of marches, and their successor, the corporate-sponsored walk-a-thon, evolved from religious pilgrimages conducted throughout human history. Focused on the future, whether in this mortal life or after, participants in pilgrimages like the Camino de Santiago or the Hajj strive for spiritual growth or seek future relief from illness or suffering in the present.I’m not a religious person, but I am intrigued by places of worship and I confess to feeling something profound on hikes around Mayan ruins in Mexico and Belize. Was it all in my head? Perhaps, but an active imagination is essential to a creative life.
Walking reassures me of the limitless nature of creativity. Whenever I feel I’ve exhausted every idea and can never write another sentence, a restorative walk proves me wrong. Just as there is no end to the details we can notice on a familiar walk, the well of inspiration is equally limitless. Call it the artist’s version of management by walking around
No activity unites the body, mind, and spirit as effectively as walking. It’s an activity, a state of being, a form of transit, and can be undertaken alone or with others. Leaving or returning, when we walk we move our body in one direction but can transport our mind to entirely new realms. If we view walking as a metaphor for our travel through life, then each walk might represent the Buddhist idea of rebirth, each unique journey an opportunity for wisdom and insight. Ultimately, every journey has a destination, whether literal or metaphorical. Whatever the purpose, or path, of our wanderings, if fate is kind and the wind is at our back, we will eventually find ourselves at home.
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.