Solo Walk

I took a walk, unencumbered by the usual weights I carry…and I arrived in an unexpected, beautiful place.

Yesterday, during the Isolation Journal’s monthly writing Hatch,  I wrote a poem about a solo walk. It was inspired by a prompt to take such a sojourn, but also included some musings by the IJ host, Carmen, from the diaries of Virginia Woolf. In this particular excerpt, Woolf muses about life and that moment when we wonder “This is it?” She talks about being a “restless searcher”, and writes:

“Why is there not a discovery in life? Something one can lay hands on and say “This is it”? My depression is a harassed feeling. I’m looking: but that’s not it—that’s not it. What is it? And shall I die before I find it? Then (as I was walking through Russell Square last night) I see the mountains in the sky: the great clouds; and the moon which is risen over Persia; I have a great and astonishing sense of something there, which is “it.” It is not exactly beauty that I mean. It is that the thing is in itself enough: satisfactory; achieved. A sense of my own strangeness, walking on the earth is there too: of the infinite oddity of the human position; trotting along Russell Square with the moon up there and those mountain clouds. Who am I, what am I, and so on: these questions are always floating about in me: and then I bump against some exact fact—a letter, a person, and come to them again with a great sense of freshness. And so it goes on. But on this showing, which is true, I think, I do fairly frequently come upon this “it”; and then feel quite at rest.”

I never knew I was embodying this wise woman in my own search for meaning in life and finding my way through depression, but I literally hung on every word. I could not get her words out of my head as I embarked on the assigned prompt of a “solo walk”.

I hoisted my laptop off the table and decided to walk outside, through a favourite trail, along our riverfront shoreline and then alongside my garden. I left the dogs behind.

I’m not sure why I thoughI needed to haul my laptop with me but I stayed on screen so other writer’s in the group could see my travels if they wished.

I then wrote a poem. It’s raw work, I frankly am not in love with most of it but that final stanza (see below). Oh yes…the writing of it brought me to an unexpected place, a rare fleeting encounter with my deepest self. A friend has suggested I rename the poem “Depression Walk”.

Pausing at the end of the path

a reflection

an awakening

this beauty is not strange

or foreign

but often overlooked

in its everyday presence

because it is always here

always shows up,

I feel a kinship in that

if being unseen

allows such glory

to occur anyway

day after day

then so can I

be as I am

in this place

even if

I am invisible.

Lately, due to my depression, which I attribute to the isolation of my life over the past few years since moving to a very tight knit community and then a global pandemic, I have not been able to stay in a room if I feel unseen. I literally will leave whether it’s a face to face meeting, casual gathering or even a Zoom call. I feel myself crumbling inside and know I have to make an escape to protect myself.

But this, this idea of basking in my own good intentions, my own “showing up” that doesn’t require any recognition – nor anything other than me seeing it myself – that’s a new idea I’d like to sit with for a while.

Sitting with my most authentic self. I think it’s a lesson many of us could benefit from.

Authenticity is kind of a thing with me. I often rail about all the organizations and people who do the Indigeneous land acknowledgements here in Canada or adopt the “7 Sacred Teachings” but do nothing to authentically get to know or honour the Indigenous People behind these acknowledgements and teachings.

For me, it’s always been what you do not what you say. It’s kind of like in story telling where we often say “show don’t tell”…although I am still a fan of too much telling because I love words!

What moves me in those last few lines that just came up in the writing, is that I can accept that I will not always be seen but that is okay. I will know what I did. I will know what I can be proud of, I will know I searched for the beauty in the situation, and I will know who I honoured in some way … and in many cases that might just be myself. When I shared the poem with my writing group, one person said the poem captures the beauty of unresolved longing… and how that lack of resolution can make us even more grateful for what we have. Whew!

It’s a good day when you can see the forest through the trees.

I credit that walk just for myself for bringing me to this moment.

I think I’ll sit here a while – and hope that this fleeting encounter with myself might last a while longer too.

Here is the full raw poem – edits to follow!

Solo Walk

It is rare to walk

just for the sake of it

without canines

straining on leashes

demanding a slow trot

never a leisurely stroll

but today is a solo walk

a prompt

to see what comes up

when I do this thing

just for me.

Breathe deep, exhale

breathe again

and exhale

with the next step

take notice

of the massive overhanging

pine branches

I step under

then continue on the path.

It is a favourite trail

short, to the point

like so many

of my interactions of late

there is no need to rush

I know where

 these steps will take me.

But something happens

inspired by the likes of great minds,

Virginia Woolf pondering

what she could say

about her own life

when on a stroll*.

What can I say

as I step through a

corridor I have walked often,

taken for granted

what others may find

spell binding

living in this space

of mature forest,

rivers rich with life,

sometimes hesitant

every walk

requiring thought, awareness

for the wild things

that were here first

and can appear

at any time.

Woolf’s declaration

“this is it”?

crosses my mind

as I round the last

turn on this well-known foot path

the one that opens up

to the river

calm today

glistening with the

reflections of the sun,

weeds and wild rice

sprouting throughout

the secluded bay

that just yesterday

hosted a shy blue heron.

I breathe deep,

As I do, I’m overcome,

yes “this is it”

peace, contentment

acceptance for what is enough

as I rest my hand

on a mature balsam

along the pathway

I feel the honour

of our good choices

as this is but one

of the many such conifers

we leave standing

resist sawing down

to clear our path.

The only visible

human intervention

in the natural fauna

is the garden

growing with wild abandon

although fenced in

against four-legged intruders,

pollinators hover on the petals

of marigolds, holly hocks, and sunflowers.

Pausing at the end of the walk

a reflection

an awakening

this beauty is not strange

or foreign

but often overlooked

in its everyday presence

because it is always here

always shows up,

I feel a kinship in that

if being unseen

allows such glory

to occur anyway

day after day

then so can I

be as I am

in this place

even if I am invisible.

*From the diary of Viginia Woolf, vol. 3 (1925-1930)

By Leanne

Leanne is MightyWrite’s lead writer. She believes in the power of stories that focus on our humanity and how what we bring to the world and each other is what really matters.

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