Hello! This week’s Matchstick is all about Walking the Soul Back Home.
Be sure to check out the Creativity Candle activity that goes along with this post titled, Rainbow Walk.
“A walk in nature walks the soul back home.” -Mary Davis
Walking and Creativity Connection
The science tells us that creativity and walking are linked. This isn’t a new idea, of course, with creatives telling us this for centuries. Consider the 13th century poet, Rumi, who wrote, “As you start to walk on the way, the way appears.”
More recently, Henry David Thoreau’s transcendentalist reflections of nature, conceived while walking and living in solitude. And Nietzsche’s philosophical quote, “All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.”
Now there are scientific studies to back up what creatives have been telling us all along. According to the research report, “Give Your Ideas Some Legs: The Positive Effect of Walking on Creative Thinking” by Marily Oppezzo and Daniel L. Schwartz (Stanford University), when asked to come up with novel and useful ideas, study participants who were walking outperformed their stationary peers by considerable amounts. The conclusion
“…walking improves the generation of novel yet appropriate ideas, and the effect even extends to when people sit down to do their creative work shortly after.”
The TED talk below is about the same research. Some take aways for me are that walking works best with brainstorming ideas around solving a certain problem. And that it’s best to speak your ideas aloud while walking.
Marily Oppezzo also recommends to record your ideas on your phone and just pretend like you’re having a conversation with someone. I love this because I actually do this and thought it was a little weird, but turns out it’s not weird, it’s just science. Walking and talking (to myself) is when I think the best. I work on lines from poems, ideas for stories, and on blocking out paintings. I say things like, “Okay, the tree goes in the upper right corner, then Lupita standing on a hill with flowers…then which direction is the light coming from?”
In this painting below, Lupita is walking deep in the forest at sunrise wearing a special homemade blanket, created IRL for me by my dear cousin, Angie. She sent me this prayer blanket at a difficult time in my life and it arrived like a ray of light. I would wrap myself in it and take morning walks through our small wooded property near Atlanta that we owned at the time.
It was on one of those walks that this painting came to me - all at once - complete with the trees and orbs of sunlight. It’s a combination of my recent walks with my blanket and the long morning walks I used to takes as a young girl, following my father through the forest in rural Iowa.
And the skunks? Well…if you happen to be deep in the timber just at sunrise in summertime, you can meet skunks returning home after foraging for berries all night. They walk with a wobble, having ingested so much fruit, which is now fermenting. Hence the phrase “drunk as a skunk.” As a little girl, I used to giggle and wave at the skunks as the hobbled past me in the new morning light.
I named the painting after a quote by the artist Evelyn Dunbar, “It is our privilege and our adventure to discover our own light.” I feel now that I have another painting to make of this week’s walking the soul home quote. These words speak to me so clearly. Walking the soul back home. Yes.
Poems From Walks
One poem that comes to mind is this one I wrote after a visit to Yaxchilán, in the jungle near the border of Mexico and Guatemala.
It was during the same journey where I made it to Bonampak to see the Mayan murals. The path was particularly rough back there (and I was secretly dealing with a heartbreaking infertility journey), so it was a difficult day. I slipped and fell down a couple times. I tripped over a giant tree root. We encountered bats and monkeys in a terrifying and intimate way. (More on this later…) It was one of those walks where I was grateful to have the chance to experience it, but I’m also so very grateful I’m not still walking it.
A sign tacked to a tree coated in moss
near the Usumacinta River reads,
¡Lave sus manos con agua y jabón!
Wash your hands with water and soap!
I carve my own words into the bark beneath
the sign, this graffiti I leave on a solitary tree,
immense and looming behind the pyramid
at Yaxchilán, as proof I crossed over, dug in,
fell, slid down, cleared out, cut, transformed.
¿Y mi corazón…como lo lavo?
And my heart…how can I clean it?
This is me (seated - lower left) during the same journey, but at Palenque. I can’t find any photos at Yaxchilán. I’ll keep looking.
What does walking the soul back home mean to you?
What’s a walk you’ll always remember?
What could you create from the memory of that walk?
Share Your Light
Think / write / paint...or create however you feel like creating. Then I encourage you to share your work with others, even if it’s not completely finished. I’ll share my work, too.
I’d love to see what you create! Share on Instagram:
Let us know what you created. Write a comment on this post:
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Emily Lupita also writes Autism Brothers, a weekly newsletter and supportive community for her two Autistic sons.