I thought I remembered an Annie Dillard essay about going on “sensory walks” – walks where you don’t talk (ideally you’re alone), and maybe you don’t even “think” in a clear or verbal sense. You focus on sensing. You focus on seeing, yes, but also expand your attention to what you hear, smell, touch, or taste.
Maybe it was from a different writer, or maybe it’s in an essay by Dillard that I now can’t find, but this idea of focusing on truly opening up in a sensory way as I walk struck me many years ago, and I revisit it often.
In looking for the supposed Dillard essay, I rediscovered her quote:
“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”
The past week I’ve felt so grateful. Grateful for ongoing healing, energy, vitality. Grateful for my friends, my community. Grateful for creative outlets. Grateful for so many things.
If how we spend our days is how we spend our lives – my days, these days, bode well for my life.
If how we spend our days is how we spend our lives, then today’s contribution to that life included eating fresh handmade bread; enjoying visual art, music, and good people; and a lovely “sensory walk” in the drizzly afternoon.
There was a tree overflowing with exuberantly chirping birds. I heard them from far off, and they became louder and louder as I got closer. They sounded joyous to me, but who knows, maybe they were yelling and getting out their angst. They all got completely quiet when I stopped in front of their tree to look at them.
More swooped in and landed silently, as if to say to me, “We see you, and we’ve got each other’s backs. Just so you know.” And to each other, “We’re all in this together. I’m here. I’ll protect you from the large human with the imposing and brightly colored umbrella.”
(On the other hand, maybe they were saying, “Ooooooh…. interesting. This human is someone we like. We should invite her in for coffee.” Who knows? They were eyeing me, one way or the other.)
I also became fascinated by droplets of drizzle. I love the way water drops cling to branches, leaves, and berries, glistening in weather like this.*
The drizzle felt good, too, on my skin. Refreshing.
I think I can be happy in almost any weather as long as I can get out in it.**
The other thing that happened on this sensory walk was that I made it to a marker I had regularly walked to prior to surgery. I made it!
The exhilaration of finally walking a distance that was the same as my pre-surgery-self gave me even more energy to walk back home; I had an almost literal skip in my step. And (probably because of the gray rainy day), I was the only one out (other than one biker who whipped past), so could really enjoy it.
A good day, a good life indeed.
*Side note: I’ve had an ongoing conversation with myself about the pros and cons of photography. Some say if you’re busy taking a picture, you’re not actually present in your experience. I get that perspective, but I feel like often taking pictures makes me more present. I get a little closer to see the details. I slow down. I notice patterns, colors, negative space. So I go between having camera up and out, taking it all in, and camera put away – still taking it all in.
** Well, not Chicago winter wind. I have not experienced an instance when being in that weather could be a pleasant experience. Curled up with a blanket, a book, and some tea or whiskey, yes, maybe then I can enjoy an aspect of the winter wind in Chicago – that is, if it is outside and I am not. But if I’m out in it, I’m usually cursing. Loudly.