Friday, September 18, 2015

30 Minutes A Day: Re-framed

Late last spring, I embarked on a new tradition. I stumbled over it by accident. I started taking a 30-minute walk every day. I wrote about that experience here.

I felt all kinds of benefits from the walk. I meandered. Except for the 30-minute part, I had no agenda. I took photographs. I invariably felt refreshed. I continued more or less consistently. I wrote another post about it last July.

This kind of stroll might be my version of meditation.

I thought I was going to keep doing this. I imagined the benefits of the 30 minutes a day building upon one another. I imagined writing about my experience in the fall and then the winter.

That is not what happened.

What happened instead was that I'd go out for my walk and enjoy it very much at the time. But sometimes, before and after the walk, I'd feel stressed out. I wasn't stressed out about other things then found later that taking the walk was worth it. The stress was about the walk itself.

The walk was becoming another obligation. The walk was becoming a nag.

One thing I value about myself is my consistency. For that reason, it was difficult initially to switch gears. One of the drawbacks to making blanket proclamations and plans is that it can lead to rigid behaviors. I started to see the writing on the wall.

Oftentimes, we make plans before all of the information is in. Sometimes we don't acknowledge when things have changed. Commitments made during one period of life may not work for another. That is what happened to me.

I gave myself permission not to go for a walk for 30 minutes a day. That was a start.

While out for a run or folding laundry, I thought about the walks I was taking. That is when I do some of my best thinking. More information trickled in.

The 30-minute walks were ideal for some days and not for others. This is not an all or nothing situation. It has nuances.

Going out for a 30 minute walk makes sense when I am doing the type of work that benefits from a break. Certain types of paperwork, organizing and unpacking, research, cleaning house and repetitive tasks done over a long period of time and keep me housebound are obvious things. Days where my schedule is flexible enough and not interrupted by outside forces are also welcoming to this walking experience.

Days where I spend a great deal of time out of my apartment do not make the most sense in terms of the 30 minute walk. Nor do days where interruptions are built in. Days where every moment is accounted for means that the walk may cause more stress than it alleviates.

There are days when my teenagers are around and need a great deal of interface from me. Sometimes the walk is not practical. Other times it's an excellent idea. It gives me a break. It gives them a break.

Finally, there are the kinds of days where creativity and very pleasurable work is the actual order of the day. The walk is not really needed the same way on those days. Those times I set aside for blogging, making collages or photography are examples of this. These activities are already akin to meditative experiences for me.

This change of plans may seem like a small thing. It is in fact a small thing when stacked up against more important stuff. But my being able to switch gears with this has other implications. Making distinctions between good walk days and bad walk days is great practice for sorting out matters of much larger consequence.

Sunday was a good day for a 30-minute walk.

I was doing a lot of scheduling, school paper signing, organizing and filing. There was minutia. There was banality. And while everything was timely, I had a bit of flexibility in terms of my time.

I used the 30-minute walk as both a break and a reward. I set out at the designated time. I made sure to pack an umbrella because the sky was getting dark and it was windy. Rain seemed imminent.

Barring a thunderstorm, I planned to stay the course.

This might not seem like a good time for a walk. For me it was ideal.

For one thing, I've noticed that people are very adverse to rain. They will go right inside once it starts looking dark and foreboding. I found the streets to be nearly empty. Not only did this make my walk more peaceful, but also I had fewer folks to worry about when taking some of the weirder photographs I do.

Once it started to sprinkle people started running in a frantic attempt to go inside before more water hit them. There was screaming and flailing. There was wrestling with umbrellas.

The rain began while I was in a lush garden. I positioned myself under some trees and saw some interesting stuff to photograph. Sometimes I used my umbrella propped up on some branches or the ground to keep my iPhone dry so I wouldn't have to worry about it.

I took a video of raindrops hitting a marble bench and making an interesting dot pattern, but it was a little too boring for anyone but me, so I deleted it.

It never became torrential and it reduced to a steady, misty drizzle. I dispensed with the umbrella and walked out on the sidewalk. The flowerbeds were very interesting.

I'm going to let you in on a little secret about rain. It can be good for photography.

I'm not referring to stormy situations. I am not talking about high winds. I am not talking about weather-advisory thunder and lightning.

I am talking about a lazy drizzle.

When there's a lazy drizzle it is highly uncomfortable for most people. But it is fine for me. It might be okay for you too. If I were putting out a singles ad, I could honestly that I enjoy long walks in the rain. I have already mentioned that this alone is a good thing for photography. Less people mean fewer headaches.

Cloudy skies almost always accompany rain. This gives you a nice, even light. This isn't the time to get all experimental with shadows. There won't be many. But you can explore a softer look.

The wetness has a lacquer like effect when it lands on things. That shine, plus the soft even light makes colors pop. It's like the palette is on steroids.

While rain gives a nice jolt to colors that are already intense, it does something equally interesting to more muted hues. Mauve, silver - grey, olive green, terra cotta and taupe look decidedly richer.

Things become dotted and splattered in a way that I like. The video I took may have been boring. But I loved what the rain did to this leaf.

When it's raining, the differences between what is light and what is dark can be intensified. Case in point: the dirt in this flowerbed became darker and blacker when wet, while the dead stems remained light in color. This is a lovely edition to an ongoing series called Past Their Prime. It also reminds me of a scratchboard.

I worked to capture an image that is the essence of wet. After several attempts, the rain and I came up with this.

Moving forward, I anticipate taking more 30 minute walks - some of the time. I'll move through the crisp autumn days a half hour here and there and slog through snow the same way. There are times to be disciplined about something. There are times not to be. Today I'll be talking about a walk outdoors. Tomorrow it will be something bigger.

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  1. I like the art here and elsewhere on your blog ( mixed m collage).. Yours?

    1. Emily - yes! Thanks so much! All of the collage and photography are mine.