Imagination Takes a Hike

Image by Craig Cloutier**

To say that I am an avid walker is an understatement. It is perhaps one of the things I love the most about living in New York City. For me walking is about much more than exercise or fresh air—it’s about exploration, experience, and reflection. But it wasn’t until I came across Alexei Sayle’s* article from this past Sunday’s Observer of London that I became cognizant of how wonderfully this activity also fuels my imagination.

It was really a single line from Sayle’s article that has started me thinking about this: “The act of walking itself can be, if you tread with your eyes and brain open, fantastic for the imagination,” he writes. This seems deceptively obvious, perhaps, and it is certainly something I readily recognize as I reflect, now, on my own experience. Stepping out for a lunchtime turn around the block during a busy work day isn’t just about releasing tension, it’s about re-starting my brain, revving up those gears, generating sparks. Yet I had not previously conceived of walking as a part of my own imagination practice.

Not only is New York an eminently walkable city, but I am certainly not alone in my passion for exploring this fascinating place on foot. The population encountered striding through Central Park, Riverside Park, or along the sidewalks of the Upper West Side (or in myriad other corners of the five boroughs, I presume), is gratifyingly diverse and often unexpectedly fascinating. What and who you encounter during a particular foray makes the experience valuable, but I wonder whether simply being “outside” or “abroad” in both a conceptual and physical sense doesn’t also exercise the imagination in a certain way?

Thinking about stepping out to reignite? Caleb Smith documented his two-year project to walk every street in Manhattan. Shore Walkers is a year-round walking club based in NYC and lower New York State, perhaps best known for The Great Saunter, an annual 32-mile hike around the perimeter of Manhattan. (A bit crazy on the face of it, I know, but I have actually completed this walk more than once!) I don’t mean to seem completely NYC-centric, though! Check out www.startwalkingnow.org from the American Heart Association. And consider browsing the Internet for information about walking your own community.

*Sayle is not terribly well-known in the U.S. Readers might most likely remember this British author, actor, and comedian for his recurring role as the landlord Jerzy Balowski on the 1980s import, The Young Ones.

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**There is a Creative Commons license attached to this image.

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