Daily exercise this month consists largely of walks, with just occasional days suitable for kayaking. Due to the rain these walks often end up being along roads, the same roads, day after day. Frequently I walk alone. I have been reflecting on what stops it becoming tedious? What I have realised is that for me going out each day for exercise can have different savours.
Often I set out with a particular purpose. It may be that my fit app. prompts me to choose a route to meet a target. In that case I stride out at a steady pace, conscious only of the rhythm of my movements, enjoyment is in the action itself. I’m like a little wind up toy, mechanically performing my task.
Another day I might want to either; clear my thoughts of anxieties that crowd in, or conversely, focus my thoughts. When I’m preparing to work on my story writing I like to immerse myself. It helps to live out the scenes in my mind, so that when I come to write I’ve already performed some of the editing . As I walk I’m trying out scenarios filtering, adapting and imagining them so that I can come home and describe them.
On either of those sorts of walks it helps to be solitary, and weather, or the scenery, even passers by, do not really register.
Some days I go out specifically to notice my surroundings. My pace is slow, and stops can be frequent. I’ve at last remembered to put a light pair of binoculars in my bag! I’m constantly surprised and delighted at what I see and hear.These are the walks when I lose track of time and my feet drag homeward. They often inspire me to write, create art or they may just spark joy.
So many other people are out taking their exercise that a walk can evolve into a social event. Liberated from the demands of normal life, folk have time and want to chat. Albeit from a distance. It’s impossible to plan such walks but they are valuable and combat feelings of loneliness.
Sometimes a walk can be unplanned, just a means to an end, shopping, dropping off or collecting something, but once I’m out and about, I keep going!
Not all my walks are solitary. I do occasionally walk with one of my friends, and each of them brings their unique own flavour. I look forward to walks with groups of friends soon, but I hope I won’t forget the benefits I have discovered in daily walking.
Still suffering toe torture. Fortunately weather glorious again so kayaking was a very attractive alternative to a walk. Particularly after hearing on Zoom church that we have a Covid cluster in Parish, hence church closures til March. So many folk walking locally it felt better out on the river.
Clear still morning, reflections so crisp as to be disconcerting. Something weird about watching a bird flying below in a sky below you and the land reflection so like the solid original that you feel you may bump into its solid form.
Disturbed a red shank on the shore but saw him again on my return, legs highlighted in the sun. His not mine. Head colder than wet feet. The air temperature very low, particularly ok nice I paddled into shadow of the woodland bank opposite. Welcome to emerge again into the broad open space of the Pool. Drifted to appreciate the peace and beauty.
Today was to be an exercise walk, spurred on by the fact that I got exactly zero intensity minutes yesterday I was determined to make up for it. I chose the hilliest routes and strode forth, taking no prisoners. I barely hesitated to great neighbours but stomped upwards inexorably.
I reached the edge of the woods having gathered pace downhill when I suddenly stopped. I have no idea why, but as I took in my surroundings I realised that incredibly close to me, hiding in plain sight was a flock of long-tailed tits. We each maintained the silence as the birds tried to disguise themselves in leafless trees. There was an evident though subtle retreat, but still some of them couldn’t resist hanging upside down like tree baubles to feed, or maybe they were drinking the dew. Whilst so absorbed I was almost hit in the face by a couple of birds in chase. Fast and tiny, my first thought was wrens, but as they giddied around the tree, too intent on each other to notice me I was able to identify a coal tit in pursuit of what I would have said was a crested tit.
Birds were running up and down trunks of trees in the distance, I photographed them and looking at photo I think they were wood warblers. The wood seemed alive! I thought perhaps the whole woodland area was like this and maybe I just needed to stop and look more frequently but throughout the rest of my walk the woods were still and silent apart from the mournful cry of crows.
I have had it drilled into me since childhood not to talk to strangers. All the fairytales caution against talking to strangers in the woods and naturally lone women don’t talk to strange men in the woods. Yet today I broke with convention and had chats with two strangers prompted by bird sightings. Having spent some time watching a group of oystercatchers at my feet, though safely down a steep bank, I couldn’t resist pointing them out. Close to their beaks are striking in the brilliance of their red and in their length and strength, not surprising if you are going to open an oyster! The second encounter was another stranger pointing out to me a couple of cormorants that he had been watching fish together working their way out with the tide.
Hard to Swallow
This morning from my hide- under the duvet with the sun pouring in through the window- I watched the progress along the shoreline of a single greenshank. A transient visitor it usually betrays its presence by its distinctive call when disturbed. This morning it drew my attention as it seemed to have something it was still trying to swallow as it kept throwing its head up, contorting its neck. It was simultaneously still feeding so obviously not too hindered. Any birdwatchers care to explain what might have been going on. There are many small shore-crabs so maybe it was just trying to force one down.
Walk in the rainRain patterns water surface.Releasing stored aromas into moist air.Weed, mud, sea-water, treesAll heightened, rising like coastal incense.Palpable quiet, gentle orchestration -Oars dipping, fish jumping, Rooks telling each other where th
First kayak in a couple of months I made it gentle and not too long, as I paddled back I realised that I didn't want to go in just yet. The sun warmed from a clear blue sky and blinded me with sparkles. I carried on paddling into the wind until I ran out of depth at the head of the creek. Returned reluctantly and then stopped. I sat in the middle of the river in silence. Then realised how noisy my paddling had been, I listened to the spring birds surrounding me. The banks on either side rose up steeply, mostly gardens here in this most sheltered last curve of the estuary. Gardens so steep that a couple had already succumbed and crumpled onto the beach. I drifted, caught between easterly wind and outgoing tide fighting to see who would take control. This made my progress stately, the wind drifted me home. I passed the place where once, a lifetime ago, I had moored my Devon yawl. I was newly widowed, hopeful that I might one day resume sailing. I visualized the painting I had done to capture the view from my buoy and looked down the river to compare with my image. Satisfied I took up the paddle and headed for the quay.
I Crossed the Border Today
I didn’t ask, I knew the answer.
I crossed the border today
To a new life
Not that I won’t miss my old
But I have to keep moving.
I can’t let them ask me.
I don’t have the right answers.
So darkness, wire cutters.
Walking walking in the dark.
Towards a chance to start again.
A white van, unmarked.
No uniform, no identity.
I don’t struggle
Or ask who they are.
Bundled back across the border
I crossed the border today.
After a period of procrastination I have made final edits to the story I’ve been writing. See references in earlier blogs. A friend kindly proof-read it and I made amendments. We both agreed however that it does require a few more illustrations to introduce characters and set scenes. I’ve made a start on these. Look carefully to find the birds in the riverscape.
21st January 2020
Studio space restored to pristine condition we arrived, day 2, ready for more. Faye was with us again and introduced Kate Waters, our tutor for the afternoon.
Once again we were asked to build on yesterday’s work pushing it as far as we could led by, and continuing to explore, the materials. Our processes began to further diverge, informed in my case by my one to one mentoring session with Marie Claire.
I cut and re-positioned elements either over another background or on fresh paper. Further marks were added. Still experimenting with large brush marks, rollers, dragging and printing and a selection of paints, charcoal, bars and inks, spraying with water, scraping back, further editing by covering with paint or torn/ cut paper of varying opacity.
We worked independently, engrossed in our own work but there was a freedom to wander the room and engage with others. We discussed were encouraged or encouraged others, made suggestions, offered and received praise. It felt a safe encouraging, stimulating environment.
Kate gave us an insight into her life and work through a powerpoint talk. It was humbling to be granted insight into the very personal route to her challenging sometimes disturbing images.
Her hunger for knowledge about our human spiritual heritage leading to explorations in place and time. Her dedication to mastering Shamanic practice and her visceral responses in the most delicate watercolours. She shared that occasional very vivid dreams inspired or acted as prompts to her instinctive, intuitive way of working.
She showed us some of the small sketchbooks which accompany her everywhere. Filled and constantly edited. Pages brought forward from earlier books which turn out to have been ‘future flagging’. Many of them full of words with visual material a small element. We were invited to look at Kate’s illustrations for works of poetry, CD covers, books and book covers. Her images are direct but unsettling, delicate but with a power which lingers.
Throughout the 2 days, in smaller groups and pairings, we found out more about each other’s lives. How each of us had come to apply for this particular course, which part of the country we travelled from, something of our careers, families. A few shared images of their work on phones. Discussion ensued about the challenges of working in different media, selling work, use of colour, economies around framing.
It had been a tiring, intense but exhilarating two days. To draw it’s strands together Faye went around to each of us asking what surprised us about the experience and to look at how we had responded. Finally we cleared our work stations, packed our pieces away, said our goodbyes and headed off to our various workspaces and studios to continue developing our personal practice.