“The rhythm of walking generates a kind of rhythm of thinking, and a passage through a landscape echoes or stimulates the passage through a series of thoughts. This creates an odd consonance between internal and external passage, one that suggests that the mind is also a landscape of sorts and that walking is one way to traverse it. A new thought often seems like a feature of the landscape that was there all along, as though thinking were travelling rather than making.” – Rebecca Solnit
Recently I took some of my friends on a walk into “The Land Before Time”. Ok, that’s a slight misnomer, but it’s a chunk of land on Londolozi that I absolutely love because it is such a large area, with no roads running through it. It means you have the chance of losing yourself in it without ever being disturbed. It’s kind of like the apex when it comes to pristine Nature here.
It was late afternoon and rich, golden light was filtering through the trees. There was not a whisper of wind and the stillness around me mirrored the deep stillness and joy I felt in me to be sharing the moment with such a special group of women. We meandered through a grove of Tamboti trees, feeling drawn to one in particular that was enormous and commanding and felt very much like the ancient grandmother of the grove.
As we walked, I was reminded of the author and visionary whose work has been popping up for me recently. Rebecca Solnit speaks of walking in a way that really resonates with me.
“Walking, ideally, is a state in which the mind, the body, and the world are aligned, as though they were three characters finally in conversation together, three notes suddenly making a chord. Walking allows us to be in our bodies and in the world without being made busy by them. It leaves us free to think without being wholly lost in our thoughts.”
For me, this is exactly what that afternoon offered me. It was an opportunity to head out into the bush and to move in whatever direction called to us. To stop and look at a flower or a track or a bird and then to meander some more, is pure bliss. To me, that feels like truly engaging with this wilderness because it is completely inclusive and it means I don’t have to forego a path that excites me in order to stay vehemently on tracks. It helps me to stay open to possibility and random moments of inspiration and for me that is presence and creative living.
“Thinking is generally thought of as doing nothing in a production-oriented culture, and doing nothing is hard to do. It’s best done by disguising it as doing something, and the something closest to doing nothing is walking. Walking itself is the intentional act closest to the unwilled rhythms of the body, to breathing and the beating of the heart. It strikes a delicate balance between working and idling, being and doing. It is a bodily labor that produces nothing but thoughts, experiences, arrivals.”
We turned and headed northwards towards the rocky outcrop above Marthly Pools, a spot that allows you a vantage point over the Manyelethi River and then outwards over the rest of Londolozi. As we headed for the outcrop, we unexpectedly came across two rhinos that had been resting in the shade of the riverine thickets. We spotted each other at the same moment and the rhinos leaped to attention in the characteristically athletic manner that belies their size. For a few long moments, we all stood watching each other in a way that feels very familiar because it’s so ancient. There’s something that makes you feel very vulnerable and thus alive about being so close to something so big and wild with nothing between you but a mutual curiosity. They smacked their lips together loudly and swivelled, trying to pin down the presence they were sure was there but couldn’t quite make out.
“Many people nowadays live in a series of interiors — home, car, gym, office, shops — disconnected from each other. On foot everything stays connected, for while walking one occupies the spaces between those interiors in the same way one occupies those interiors. One lives in the whole world rather than in interiors built up against it.”
This is particularly true of our reality here. To have your feet on the ground is to feel this land so much more intensely and the vulnerability of being exposed to wild animals like rhinos makes you aware. You listen to the world around you and you engage with each element of your senses. It takes you from a scramble of thoughts to thoughtfulness.
As those rhino galloped away from us I was reminded that you don’t have to be tracking something to find it. Sometimes all you need to do is wander and you’ll bump right into it.
Rebecca Solnit says, “being out on your own, being free and anonymous, you discover the people around you”. I say, when you walk out here, you discover the person within you.