#52: Walking and Newsletter Writing: A Year in Review
+ “Attention restoration theory” // Walking as Praxis // Anne Brigman Legend // Do the real thing // The Last Dance // More Strava Art
|Bryan Formhals||May 17, 2020|
Time: It has been a strange year. I started writing this newsletter last May after leaving my full time job to try my way at freelancing while pursuing my projects on walking. It did not go as expected, which is usually the case when you pursue new ventures.
I started another full time job in the fall and then the world changed with the pandemic. And here I am now, like many others, pursuing a new direction, without fully understanding what our economic future might look like. We’re all improvising, and will be for a long time.
The constants throughout have been walking, photographing and writing this newsletter. I’ve never walked more miles in a year than I have since last May. It has been enriching and life changing in many regards, most importantly to my physical and mental health. I’ve never felt healthier in my adult life. I’ve achieved my goal of reaching my optimal BMI, and have developed a healthy eating routine that I find easy to stick with.
All of the walking has deepened my appreciation and understanding about what I value in terms of art and public spaces. I have much work left to do in terms of research, connecting and then incorporating that into my projects. Tt sometimes feels like I’m not making much progress, but I know it compounds over time if you keep at it. I know that I’m on the right learning path.
This year has changed my understanding of time. I believe it has felt longer because of the number of long novelty walks I’ve made. New experiences impact our sense of time, and can make it feel like we’ve lived more. We tend to forget what we do repeatedly. Our brain understands those experiences, and files them in the ‘known’ department. That’s one of the reasons why I think long walks in novel places can greatly improve our memory. But I’m not a neuroscientist so I could be wrong. I need more research!
Without question, the absolute top benefit of writing this newsletter has been receiving feedback and stories from readers. I hope we’re just getting started. I have some ideas of how to make this newsletter more informative and useful, and many of them revolve around sharing more from readers and likeminded artists.
If you’re interested, I published new article on some of the lessons I learned writing this newsletter up on my journal. It’s new. I plan on writing more long form content around all of these topics as I continue to build.
Thanks for reading for 52 issues! I greatly appreciate the support.
If you’re thinking about starting a newsletter and want to chat, drop me a line! Happy to help.
“Attention restoration theory” is the idea that the natural environment has profound restorative effects on our well-being, and that the human experience of the natural world markedly assists in maintaining and fostering a strong sense of subjective well-being. According to psychologists, a natural environment should have three critical elements to be fully restorative: it should give you the sense of being removed from your normal life and surroundings, it should contain visual elements and sensory elements that are fascinating in some way, and it should be expansive—it should have some degree of extension. The increasing pressures of modern life tend to increase mental fatigue, but restorative experiences in nature might decrease it. This restorative effect is best mediated through a connection to natural environments, because they play an essential role in normal human functioning. - Shane O’Mara, Outside Magazine
Walking and Nature: I read this book a few months ago, and found it fascinated. Highly recommended if you want to learn more about the science of walking and wellness.
This excerpt came across my radar this week, just as the weather is getting nicer in NYC and I’ve indulged in a few epic walks. I’d been anxious for a proper long hike but have been apprehensive about getting on a train. I gave in this week and took the LIRR to Alley Pond park which has some of the best hiking trails within the city. It was perfect and restorative. I’m interested in learning more about the connection between long walks/hikes and increased focus. I’m thinking attention restoration theory might be the first avenue to pursue.
Walking is one of the best ways I know to learn a place; it allows me to slow down to the pace of three to four miles per hour and, given alertness in the senses, register more. It is also one of the best ways I know to have a conversation, to allow for the rhythms and pauses of ideas to be exchanged and unfold in real time. This exchange operates whether cultivating stories as an artwork in relationship to site, or walking down a main street with a collective in protest; it has something critical to do with the human scale of walking and its relationship to our agency as human beings.
Walking appears to inscribe itself in the horizontal movement across spaces, a form of inscription readily aligned with mark making and drawing, a kind of writing with the body.
Walking and Art: I was researching walking artists and found Julie Poitras Santos essay Walking as Praxis in the Brooklyn Rail. The above quote resonated with me, and I’m sure will with other walkers as well.
The relationship between walking and time has become more central to my thinking recently, and I know one of the reasons I walk as much as possible is because it’s when I feel most in harmony with my natural rhythms of time (if time even exists but that’s for another day.) This is especially true when I’m deeply engaged with the environment, like on a trail or in a park.
Being inside, consuming media and entertainment alters my relationship with time in ways that I think, at least for me, cause a type of ‘time’ anxiety. Even though I might be engaging with the material, there’s a sense that I’m wasting time. That’s never the case when I’m walking and out making photographs.
It’s a bit trickier when reading a book, writing or editing photos. I can focus on those tasks and feel productive, but it does still create a certain time anxiety. I’m not sure why, but I would like to explore these ideas further in the future.
Would love to hear your thoughts on the topic as well, drop me a line at email@example.com
I love these photos by Anne Brigman: “She was an artist who helped shape American modernist, feminist, and landscape photographic traditions.”
Sports were my world in the 90s. It’s been a nostalgia trip watching The Last Dance and remembering the greatness of Michael Jordan.
Way of the Walk is my weekly newsletter on walking, photography and creativity. Each week I share updates on my current walking projects as well as interesting creative projects and artists incorporating walking into their process. The podcast is just getting started, tune in!