Through the trees I walk.
Along the coast,
Around the hills and over mountains
Across rivers and creeks
Stumbling on rocks, I walk.
The bag weighs me down,
My legs having learnt to continue under all circumstances
Sweaty and tired
I walk on.
For the past four years I have had a desire to walk. Walking for days at a time, carrying the minimal things I need to get by. It started in 2014 with three days deep in a valley in the Blue Mountains, cold, wet and both physically and mentally under prepared, I walked. From the Blue Mountains to now I have walked in many places, each walk having taught me something new. I have gained an abundance of knowledge and skills, my body has grown stronger learning to adapt to the challenges and extra weight and my mind has strengthened in a similar manner. But the biggest growth for me has been learning how to walk.
There are many ways people walk, each one results in a different type of experience. You can walk for the sake of walking, to get from A to B, only noticing the path in front of you or walking with multiple stories circulating in your mind. These methods leads you along the path almost blindly, unable to engage in the things around you, until you reach the set destination with little memory of where you have walked and what the landscape was off the path.
When I first started walking I found that I was fast, determined to get from one location to another. This was driven partly by fear. The fear of the unknown was causing me to quicken my step and shorten my breaks. How was I to know that the weather wasn't about to change or the path become more challenging, or what I might encounter up ahead? So I walked faster in an attempt to bring these unknown factors into the known as quickly as possible and then finally, I could relax. But this relaxation never truly came as I would quickly begin to worry and fear for the unknowns that were in the days ahead.
This type of walking doesn't leave much time for the senses to tune into the subtle sounds and sensations of the world around me.
Another alternative is walking with stillness. Walking with an openness to your surroundings noticing the subtle changes in the landscape around you, the slight undulating ground and the way the light changes each hour. Over the years of walking I have learnt to quiet these fears in myself and to welcome a silence into my being, creating more space for the subtle sounds in the landscape to be heard. Acknowledging my uncomfortable feelings towards these constantly unknown factors and then letting them go, and filling this space with the happenings of everything around me. This is an amazing freedom.
I have learnt to walk at a slower rate. I walk trying not to focus on my destination and see where my mind rests instead. Sometimes I stop and listen to the sounds all around me, without the rhythm of my footsteps interrupting. Other times I walk for a while with my eyes closed, trusting that my feet and legs will know which way to go. This type of walking is more of a meandering, it can be less direct, take more time, but much is to be gained. Walking in this way I’ve noticed that I could walk the same section over and over again. It would always be different as the light changes, the season’s shift and as my minds ability to notice and comprehend constantly changes.
I tend to walk by myself. Usually for no other reason than other people cant commit to such an experience because of time factors, work, family etc. As a result I decided to go it alone instead of not going at all. At times it can be challenging but I’ve come to truly love these times with myself on the track. When there is no one else there with you there is no pressure to converse or meet another persons expectations. This is not to say that I don't also enjoy walking with others and sharing this experience, there is a comfort and security from another’s presence that you can’t get when you are by yourself. But there is a difference, when I am simply with myself the pace is slow and I have more freedom to open myself up to everything that is outside of myself and forget, even if just for a few moments, about myself.
Only recently have I realized that the approach that I have for walking also appears in the general rhythm of my day-to-day life. I try not to rush or speed through anything, I like to take my time and notice what is happening all around. Everything is connected; simply by changing the pace that I walk I was able to change the fundamental way that I function in my life.
“If we walk only to arrive somewhere else, we sacrifice the walking itself.”
-Thich Nhat Hahn
Alice Blanch is an emerging Australian photographer influenced by the ephemeral nature of the sky and its relationship to the landscape below. Alice has a strong connection to the natural world; her photographic artwork is a visual representation of her personal experiences and understanding of the phenomena of nature.
Instagram - alice__blanch