I am familiar with the creative release that a good walk can provide.
It’s one of the most well known inspirational activities, along with having a bath. There’s something about the inwardness they induce, along with the mechanical process of habit, that allows my mind to wander, sometimes along the most fantastical loops and avenues of imagination. Often work that was stuck can come dramatically unstuck, or a new idea can come seemingly from nowhere.
Walking in nature adds another dimension. Not only can I commune with myself in imaginative ways, but in doing so can find myself immersed in the vastly elemental, or the intricately particular, enraptured by the beauty of colour, movement or sound, or plunged into battle with weather, rocks and other natural obstacles.
I can identify, in my mind, with anything from an ear of corn, or a woodlouse to a buzzard or oak tree or – if I’m so lucky – stag. I can engage with all the symbolism and dreamscapes drawn from the natural in art and writing.
I can connect to the past and future beyond human measures of time, or find myself at one with the present moment in all its unfolding complexity and richness.
For me there are a couple of particularly productive places to wander, where I will always regret it if I have forgotten to take a notebook to write down my thoughts.
I’m extraordinarily lucky to live by the sea, giving me rugged inland landscape as well as beaches, horizons, and that extraordinary west coast light that has inspired painters and sculptors as well as writers.
A couple of years ago, the shoreline and the rhythm of the ocean were inspiring my thinking. Presently it is a particular sub-tropical garden that was once a monastery vineyard and looks over the coast to a view of St Michael’s Mount. The seascape is breathtaking, but no more so than looking closely at the plants growing there, at their fractal geometric patterns, their dramatic colour and shape, at the way they filter light, their natural cycles of rebirth and decay or the sound of the stream mingled with the soughing of the majestic summer trees.
Sometimes I sit in a gardener’s hut, making stream-of-consciousness notes, channeling myself into an almost visionary state.
At other times, as on my last visit, I flop onto the grass, thinking my mind is empty and exhausted, only to roll over, see the swallows zipping across the space in predatory arcs, and suddenly find my brain is embarking on a poem.
It doesn’t always produce a finished piece of work – though many of my favourite completed poems have come from walks there – but this particular garden, with its sights, sounds, smells, textures, layered symbols of birth, fertility, death and renewal, never fails to inspire me.