Monday, June 17, 2019

Three-Park Problems and Forest Bathing

It's a commonplace amongst writers that if you become blocked or jammed, or have simply run out of inspiration, the best cure is to go for a walk. I live in one of the most built-up boroughs in London, but despite the lack of open spaces I have a local loop of a couple of kilometres that takes in three small parks and is usually just about long enough to work out the kinks in simple problems in narrative dynamics. Solutions often arrive sideways while thinking about something else or while being simply absorbed in the exercise of walking, courtesy of some process or sub-agent working away below the upper flow of consciousness.

I take that walk two or three times a week when I'm working on something. And for the past couple of years I've taken to walking around the woods and meadows of Hampstead Heath early every Sunday morning. The Japanese have a term for it. Shrinrin-yoku. Forest bathing. Immersion in the green light and forced perspectives beneath a forest canopy.  The birdsong and the cathedral hush. Hampstead Heath is one of London's larger green spaces, elevated on a ridge above the simmering brawl of the city's basin, but you wouldn't ever mistake it for a true wilderness. Even so, despite the early-bird joggers and dog walkers, it most often manages, like certain passages of music, to lift me out of myself for a brief while.

It's possible that these walks may have informed the unplanned traverses across unpopulated landscapes that both the narrator of Austral and the protagonist in War of the Maps are forced to take, although a similar traverse was also the backbone of my first novel, Confluence is a journey down the length of a world-spanning river, there are similar hikes and tours across various moons in The Quiet War and Gardens of the Sun, and Cowboy Angels is an American road trip. If you write for long enough, common themes begin to emerge. Chorography and landscape writing may be foregrounded in my most recent work, but both have been there from the beginning.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks. I'm a programmer and I have a similar route. Makes me think of the

June 18, 2019 1:55 pm  
Blogger Unknown said...

Wonderful! And yes, walking is primal - so good for creativity and stress reduction.

June 21, 2019 12:40 pm  

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