Most people want a safe and attractive neighbourhood and will get up-in-arms if it is threatened – the NIMBY (not in my backyard) factor, yet their relationship with the local surrounds can often be like the adoration Sir Robert Menzies expressed for Queen Elizabeth 11 in the 1960s “I did but see her passing by and yet I love her till I die.”
In our community, most people travel by car. It’s easy to become disconnected from the immediate neighbourhood and cling to what you think is there.
Changes may go unnoticed until too late, validating the observation ‘you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.’
Walk Your Neighbourhood, Know It, Own It!
While many places have been romanticised as wonderful places to hike or take a walk, I find my local area in Mordialloc just as beautiful as many mentioned in tourist brochures.
I don’t need to travel to walk by the sea along a wonderful foreshore, enjoy a park, or tour streets with well-kept and interesting gardens.
All of these attractions are within walking distance of my house, Mordialloc Railway Station or Mordialloc Main Street – and I’m sure there are similar attractions in suburbs all the way down to Frankston and onto the Peninsula, and up towards the city.
In my street, regardless of the season, council workers do a great job maintaining a lovely display outside a local hall where community groups like Kingston U3A meet regularly.
Although, it’s not always roses! Vigilance is needed to protect what we have and that’s why walking is important.
We can never assume things will remain the same – whether it’s the neighbourhood or our health – nothing should be taken for granted.
Melbourne is growing. Development is a huge issue with streetscapes changing rapidly as apartment blocks, town houses and units replace the traditional family home on a quarter acre block. The resulting increase in traffic and limited parking often the biggest issue people complain about.
The population is increasing, people need somewhere to live and will flock to desirable areas – especially places like Mordialloc in the south-eastern suburbs bordering Port Phillip Bay.
If councils don’t handle the transition and changes carefully and sensibly, the ambience and advantages people have moved to the area to enjoy will be lost. The natural beauty and good life people seek will disappear.
State Governments and Council Planning authorities are forever changing the rules about who can protest a development, or who needs to know, the height of buildings, the size of apartments etc.
Not everyone accesses the Internet or council websites so communication within a neighbourhood is vital.
Walking the neighbourhood benefits my mental and physical wellbeing but also keeps me aware of what is happening. If there is warning of inappropriate development I can write to my local councillor for an explanation or to protest. (and have done so.)
Sometimes it’s saving a heritage building, trees or vegetation, sometimes it’s reducing the number of apartments to be built or stopping overdevelopment.
Always it is prioritising the neighbourhood’s character and the effect on the people who live here or may want to live here in the future.
Walking Boosts Creativity
The creative effect of absorbing the beauty of the environment also worthwhile. I often walk with a friend. We consciously notice the trees and flowers in gardens, the activities at the foreshore, listen to the birds – are mindful of the places we walk….
I take my phone because of the camera. Taking pictures helps me remember and can prompt a poem or story later.
I’ve always walked – pushing my children in their strollers, walking them to school, taking the dog for an evening walk. The latter walk often a meditative exercise, alone with thoughts, working through worries and ideas, reflecting on the day.
For me, there is a synchronicity between walking and writing.
Some Women Writers Who Walked To Reflect & Be Inspired:
(I’ve chosen women in honour of IWD today!)
Virginia Woolf loved solitude and often walked. Perhaps it was genetic because her father, Leslie Stephens, a renowned writer and editor was also a notable walker and mountain climber.
In the biography of Woolf by her nephew, Quentin Bell, he says she’d write in the morning and in the afternoon go for long walks of several miles, usually with her dog.
Perhaps the walking enabled her to relax and solve any writing problems.
As a child Woolf summered in St Ives, the inspiration for “To A Lighthouse” in 1926, as she was revising the book, she returned, noting in a letter, ‘all my facts about lighthouses are wrong’.
Agatha Christie loved to walk and think – producing amazing results!
Jane Austen and her sisters took long walks together and the outings gave Jane inspiration to write.
Louisa Mae Alcott was a walker and her companion none other than great thinker Henry David Thoreau who wrote the aptly titled essay Walking. Walking through the natural world a pilgrimage without a destination where he discovered new places to adore.
Mary Oliver, the American poet born in Ohio in 1935, writes poignant observations of the natural world. Nature feeds creativity and Oliver, an avid walker finds inspiration when her feet are moving. Her poems are full of images that come from daily walks near her home.
Jane Goodall moved out of her comfort zone and trekked to places no one in the western world had gone before in her efforts to save the gorillas.
Cheryl Strayed trekked the Pacific Crest Trail and wrote Wild, which later became a movie.
Robyn Davidson trekked 1,700 miles across the Australian outback with four camels and a dog. She wrote Tracks about her epic journey, which was later made into a film.
Gertrude Stein and Alice B Toklas spent many summers in Bilignin, Ahône Valley 1929, at a villa surrounded by mountains. Stein strolled and wrote letters to Paris about her poodle, Basket – the first of three dogs she gave the name.
Merlin Coverley wrote The Art of Wandering, taking the view that walking and writing are one activity. His writer/walkers from the times of Blake, Wordsworth and Rousseau to modern day are concerned with their inner worlds, philosophy and spirituality.
The Twilight Zone
At night, just before I fall asleep
I sometimes ponder
on thoughts quite deep.
Why do we exist
and live on earth?
If there is no purpose
why do we give birth?
I can’t believe
some random explosion
put such a balanced world
in motion –
the worm, the fly, the elephant,
the platypus and parasite
interact with precision
like day and night.
The food cycle chain
and each environmental link
to really make you think
a clever creator’s hand
has been involved –
that Supreme Being’s identity
still to be solved.
Each religion I know believes
they alone have the answer
destruction wreaked by zealots
a malignant cancer
Allah, Buddah, Krishna, God,
Jesus, the sun, mankind, the trees
human beings worship
one or more, of these.
I have a yearning to know why I’m here
a reason for existing that is clear
I seek an answer to why
the world’s not one
why love and respect’s not mutual
just as we share the moon and the sun.
I’ve not discovered the answer
to explain why we’re here
but to ‘do no harm’ a message
we should all hold dear.
What is my destiny?
My reason for being?
My eyelids droop,
elusive sleep arrives
to stop me from ‘seeing’…
Walk Your Neighbourhood For a Healthy Body and Healthy Mind
Walking just 20 minutes a day can reduce your risk of premature death by 30%. About 30 minutes of walking a day burns 150 calories, which can help you reach a calorie deficit that leads to weight loss. Walking regulates blood sugar levels, which keeps insulin levels low and diabetes at bay.
A feeling of happiness and contentment can flow from recognising and appreciating where you live and regular walking is a great way to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. You’ll become leaner, firmer, and fitter.
Walking has always been meditative and calming, yet still invigorating to me. Bad moods can be marched out and life put in perspective.
It’s also a good way to rid yourself of anger – the suggestion ‘go for a walk’ or ‘walk it off’ good advice.
Anytime I need to work through a complex idea or problem, I walk or do something physical while I think.(Yep, even housework!)
Physical activity lets me ‘step aside’ and focus on the ‘real’ world while the thought process continues in the ‘virtual’ sub-conscious world where ideas/problems circulate.
The stresses of life walked out and tumultuous thoughts or emotions replaced by the sounds, smells, and sights of the sensory world of nature.
Keeping active and walking regularly not only helps maintain your weight, but lowers blood pressure, helps build healthy bones and muscles, and can improve “good” cholesterol.
The benefits aren’t just physical. Reports show that those who exercise regularly sleep better, have improved concentration and feel less stressed.
Life will be healthier and happier.
Towards the end of her life, when my mother visited and she couldn’t walk far, I’d hire a wheelchair from the chemist and take her for ‘walks’ around the neighbourhood.
We’d go down to the beach cafe and have a cuppa while I pointed out changes to the foreshore, or we’d discuss the changes to shops in Main Street since her last visit.
Perhaps in the future, my girls will be wheeling me in a wheelchair where once I wheeled them in a pram!
Walking isn’t just putting one foot in front of the other. It can be a way to socialise, to clear the brain, prevent mental breakdown, get healthier and extend life, solve – or ignore – problems, experience the world around in all its glory, beat insomnia and find a purpose.
Many of the most accomplished and creative people throughout history have also found walking to be an integral part of their daily routines and key to their success as artists, creators, writers, musicians, thinkers, and human beings.
The author, Charles Dickens, who suffered depression went for long walks. After writing from 9 in the morning to 2 in the afternoon, he’d walk – 20- or 30-miles being routine. He suffered insomnia and would prowl London’s streets until dawn. His friends worried, he walked obsessively but the habit worked! His prolific writing achievements of more than a dozen major and well-regarded novels, several short story collections, a few plays, and non-fiction books.
He said if he couldn’t walk “far and fast,” he would “explode and perish” from the psychological burden of remaining still. He found writing difficult and so walking was a relief. It probably saved his sanity.
His characters also do a lot of walking – perhaps he followed the mantra write what you know – a character in Our Mutual Friend, spends hours walking around London after dark, sometimes all night. Other characters walk from one town to another, which probably occurred in those days before motorised transportation.
Where you choose to walk can boost your sense of wellbeing. Strolls or hikes in the countryside, close to nature, can have a restorative effect at the end of a hectic working week but so can a walk around your neighbourhood.
Going for a stroll with a friend or family is a great way to spend time together while keeping active.
When you wander daily around your locale, you start to look at it properly and notice its devastating beauty. There’s the ‘naturally’ weird:
And the sweet:
the unusual or contrary (yes it is a rabbit he’s walking on a leash!):
There’s architectural loveliness, unusual plants, unfortunate graffiti and stylish landscaping.
A walk is NEVER boring. You don’t have to live next to the greatest park to experience the benefit of walking in the fresh air. Urban areas can give the same effect – there are always tiny local parks, laneways and byways to explore.
Walking is cheap and doable – you can even walk to music or listen to a book if you have headphones and an iPod.
Does walking figure in your life, help your creativity?
Where do you walk? Has it inspired poetry or prose?