This ability to walk year round was one of the reasons I loved living in New York City. I rarely felt that crushing sense of cabin fever in the winter. There was no need to go into winter hibernation and this kept me optimistic even on those days where the sidewalks were a bit icy and the threat of stepping in a huge puddle lurked at every intersection.
I knew this good walking weather was partially due to climate change and that caused a certain amount of psychological distress when my thoughts would run away to what might happen in the future. But on a long enough walk, you learn to divert your attention to more immediate matters like avoiding reckless drivers, or paying reverence to an amazing tree.
My winter equilibrium was disrupted this year with my return to the bleak, unforgiving, viscously cold winters of Minnesota. I was not at all prepared for the soul crushing, existential dread that comes with cabin fever induced by days of single to subzero temperatures, waist high snow and impassable icy sidewalks. Since nobody walks in my town of Saint Cloud, there's really no incentive to clear most of the sidewalks. It is a pedestrian frozen nightmare.
Over the winter, I made a few faint attempts at daily walks but they were mostly futile, and the experiences less than optimal for the type of long, creative walks that I've grown accustom to for refreshing my mind and creativity. So I remained stuck mostly inside my apartment glued to the steady stream of increasingly bleak news around omicron, inflation and then war in Ukraine.
Along the way, I started a new full time work from home job that has returned the some semblance of a normal return to my days.
These winter months haven't been completely unproductive from an artistic standpoint, in fact I've made great progress drawing maps from my pandemic walks. It's been refreshing to focus on a single creative task. It's meditative, and there's a relief in letting go of the urge to work on too many projects. That's always been one of the challenges for me. Too many ideas, too many projects, too many distractions.
But I do feel if you make a small amount of progress each day, that's enough. There's no rush. A few weeks ago I ordered the 4x6 prints for the pandemic project. Now I'm preparing to put it all together.
What's always fascinating about making progress on a creative project is that with each stage new ideas emerge or synthesize. Moving forward, thinking, and putting plans into action allows you to gain momentum, and has a tendency to push your creative muscles in new ways.
Over the last few weeks, I started to regret being so lazy, primarily because I am packing on the winter hibernation pounds. Too many carbs, and not enough activity. I started to panic at my full mind body spirit lethargy and decided I needed to get moving again.
The problem still remained the horrible weather. I picked a few warmer days to get out and take moderately long walks, but that wasn't enough. So I decided to do what I should have done months ago. I walked around my apartment building. It's a large circular complex with three floors, so there's actually plenty of hallway to get a decent walk in. In addition, there's a workout room with a treadmill.
There really was no excuse for avoding the walks. I suppose it just felt too fake to walk around inside a boring apartment complex with boring beige walls, bad art and ugly carpet (it's a nice place! I like living here).
The first walk inside was insightful. It wasn't so bad. I felt a bit dizzy. It wasn't like walking in circles exactly but without much change in the scenery, it felt unnatural. I got my steps in though and after a mile or so, the mind wandering kicked in and I could feel the good vibes. It was working.
Out of curiosity I took a stroll on the treadmill and it was a bizarre experience. I was completely disoriented. I know I was moving but visually nothing was changing and that essentially froze my mind in place. Sure I was thinking and ruminating but there was none of the plesant daydreaming or ideation I get when outside.
When I got off I nearly fell to the ground. It was disorienting. I felt like I was in a lab experiment. But it did make very aware that my long walks are very much about being outside in the world and absorbing the changing visual landscape. Movement in time and place.
Now spring is around the corner. I am coming up on my one year anniversary in Saint Cloud. When I arrived last year I set out to work on a series about those walks. I finished the edit long ago, and have shared a few photos here and there but have let it sit for a few months. Next step is to make a book dummy.
I am feeling back in my rhythm. I've added miles to my walks. I have my routine, and plenty of projects to finish up, and a few new ideas in the pipeline.
If you've made it this far, thanks for reading! I have an interview ready with a photographer I've admired for several years. It arrive in a few days or a week from now, not sure yet, but soon! No more schedules. These will arrive when they arrive.
- Alex Pareene tackles car culture and the rise in pedestrian deaths: "There is no real walking lobby. Biking and mass transit have many vocal advocates, but I think walking, an activity fundamental to human mental and physical health, needs more evangelists"
- Storytelling is the key to learning how to be creative: “Kids are super creative because they're always role-playing and telling stories. Could creativity training based less on logical rules and more on storytelling be massively more effective?”
- Alex Wolfe on "Walking America’s car-centric hellscape" in Grist: “I think you get such a limited scope of what these places are [while driving],” he said. “I get a lot of joy out of figuring out why these places are terrible, and more often than not they’re not terrible at all.”
I’m a photographer and consultant from Saint Cloud, Minnesota. This is my newsletter on art, walking, and mindfulness. Each issue, I share new work from my projects and try to make connections between ideas, articles and people that fascinate me.
My consulting services focus on helping photographers with project development, editorial strategy and building a walking practice. I offer FREE 30 minute introductory calls to chat about your projects, and learn if I can help.