Wednesday, September 28, 2011

2011 Streak Day 248 (Thursday Sept 8th): Walking and thinking

2011 Streak Day 248 (Thursday Sept 8th)
Walk - 3 miles , Time 1hr 10min, Weather - grey
When you look at this tree you can see how easy it is to imagine monsters and scary creatures. This looks like a multi-eyed sea creature, which has crawled up out of the canal.
When walking or running thoughts float in and out. You see something out of the corner of the eye, make some connection and it is then gone - replaced  another idle thought. I would not have remembered this tree if I hadn't taken a photograph. The act of taking a photo is different - you have to stop, make decisions, focus your attention. You are deliberately memorialising.  
Sometimes though I can't be bothered to stop. I am content in the stream of consciousness. Happy in the fleeting moments.
The thought patterns of running and walking are different though. Running thoughts are not sustained. The needs of the body are far too intrusive and the aching: of the legs, or the shoulders, or the lungs constantly intrude. The clip clop rhythm imposes a pattern at odds with the contemplative plod of a walk. Also walking can be automatic like breathing and it is possible to sustain an argument, a thread, work something out.
Without having any real statistics to hand I am sure the number of writers and artists who use walking as an aid to thinking is large. Perhaps I should start to compile a list.
Of the top of my head I would start with  Charles Dickens who was famous for walking prodigious distances each day. But there is also Eric Satie for whom walking was an important part of his daily routine (there was a Radio 3 programme on 27th August about Satie walking, which is unfortunately no longer available on the iplayer).
However this passage from a moribund blog Daily Routines, tells you all you need to know.
"On most mornings after he moved to Arcueil, Satie would return to Paris on foot, a distance of about ten kilometres, stopping frequently at his favourite cafés on route. Accoring to Templier, "he walked slowly, taking small steps, his umbrella held tight under his arm. When talking he would stop, bend one knee a little, adjust his pince-nez and place his fist on his lap. The he would take off once more with small deliberate steps."
When he eventually reached Paris he visited friends, or arranged to meet them in other cafés by sending pneumatiques. Often the walking from place to place continued, focussing on Montmarte before the war, and subsequently on Montparnasse. From here, Satie would catch the last train back to Arcueil at about 1.00am, or, if he was still engaged in serious drinking, he would miss the train and begin the long walk home during the early hours of the morning. Then the daily round would begin again.
Roger Shattuck, in conversations with John Cage in 1982, put forward the interesting theory that "the source of Satie's sense of musical beat--the possibility of variation within repetition, the effect of boredom on the organism--may be this endless walking back and forth across the same landscape day after day . . . the total observation of a very limited and narrow environment." During his walks, Satie was also observed stopping to jot down ideas by the light of the street lamps he passed.
Robert Orledge, Satie Remembered. French translations by Roger Nichols. (Thanks to Tom Cunliffe.)"
(The highlight is mine)

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