The week’s craziness dissipates with every step, evaporating and blowing away. Another wave of clouds come through and I pause under a big old tree, waiting for the rain to pass. Behind me, what sounds like a frogmouth ohms its call, and as a rainbow breaks over the shallow valley in front of bright cumulus, the kangaroos slowly emerge from under cover and start grazing again. The stream is flowing clear, and everything is still green in a flush of late spring growth.
I am reminded, as I often am, of how walking is the only real way to experience landscape on a really intimate scale. Surfing and cross country skiing are the same. Once it gets mechanical, you’re generally moving too fast to catch the nuances of landscape.
Know where you are. If you have the basics of where you are: what catchment, what direction, what’s the geology, what are the most common plants and animals, and so on, you have the basic grammar to understand that place. Even in the most urbanised environment there is always something going on, some story of bedrock or drainage, wind or weather, plants squeezing back in whereever they can.
Open your mind. Consciously letting your mind drift, not focusing on thoughts, but letting them pass through your mind without concentrating on anything can open you up to all manner of things. Have at least some time on the walk where you don’t think of anything.
Take your elders. Many of the best elders I have travelled with are children. There’s nothing like giving some kids a camera to play around with, then seeing what catches their eye, and how their perspective and freshness can be so different from ours. Elders – be they people, books, philosophies – can help us understand as we pace through a place, weaving connection and insight around us as we pass through the air, crunching through on the familiar or the new land.
Take some props. I often see people out jogging, invariably plugged into an mp3 player, and I get that. But walking is different, and I reckon there’s no point in blocking out a big part of the movie. At the same time, one of my favourite albums once got me up Mt Bogong under an enormous pack for a session of spring time skiing. And cutting turns can be spectacular with the right tunes as backdrop. I reckon un plugged time is essential to get immersed in any landscape, and other times music can be the best thing. Just don’t get to the point where you can’t just be, where you need constant human input to enjoy yourself. Make sure you also have some un-plugged time.
The last set of thoughts on walking are here.