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  • Writer's picturePäivi Maria Wells


There are some quieter contemplative activities which I use as a foundation for everything else I do in my life, walking is the most important of them. I cannot talk at great lengths about long walks through deserts, across Himalayas or pilgrimages of other sorts but I do have quite a solid idea about the affects of an everyday walk which often takes place in the most ordinary of surrounding, my immediate neighbourhood.

I currently live in a fractured and restless city where much of the walkways are cut dead by highways and fast pace roads, noise of vehicles and fumes that follow. With will and much compromise I have however managed to carve myself a quieter path amongst my surroundings, even through some woods. This route, and especially the fact that I have an access to it when I need to, is an absolute necessity and a lifeline to me. In a city that was never planned for walking, I would otherwise languish. For me it is important to be able to explore my everyday immediate surroundings by walking. I need to know what is around me and how I might fit into it all. The walks I take are ordinary, solitary, repetitive and if possible, long. The small everyday encounters in my life do inspire me deeply, but that is not the reason I value my path so much. I value it for the simple reason, that on the most days, that is all I have, and I make do with what I have.

solitary road through vegetation
© Päivi Maria Wells

Walking moves me on in the spiral of life and creativity. It is about evolving. I believe if you don’t keep moving on, exploring further and deeper, you start stagnating, or worse, you begin to slide to a whole different path that is not yours to begin with. You forget what you love and what is it that inspires you in the fist place. I believe walking that is solitary (does not necessary mean alone because solitude can be shared among those who understand one another), regular and repetitive, keeps you connected to your own path. Every time I walk I remember what I have forgotten, I remember the things that really matter.

My walking tends to follows a certain pattern. Thinking and self talk while walking comes and goes in an uninterrupted waves and finally withdraws all together to the background, leaving the space for simply being. What I find most interesting and relieving is that the small minded self indulged drama of the mind tends to shift into a curiosity and interest outside oneself, into the world around. I notice how I begin to measure and taste my words more carefully until even they fade away. The language looses its importance. I believe intelligence runs through our bodies in many ways. The rhythmic motion of walking allows me to by-pass my busy mind and I begin to listen from my heart. I find it quite remarkable that just by putting one foot after another our perception of everything can change so dramatically. That walking transforms into wakefulness and stillness.

It is as if by walking I can move from the world of thoughts and words into the world of ideas and inspiration. Intuition and insight, and with that, a realisation arises so clear and obvious that I know it had had to be there all along, only I was not listening. There seem to be something non-dualistic and truthful in this kind of awareness that sets in. It is here where I go through a beautiful stream of consciousness as I unravel and stitch together, I touch, hold and release. I look for the rhythm in irregularities and patterns within them. There is thread that flows through what is around me and what is inside of me and makes connections where there use to be none. While I walk I listen, I listen a lot. I listen to the nature and I listen to the answers. And from all this, a whole new deeper, more interesting questions arise.

Like walking, photography is a meeting ground between the person’s inner world and the outer physical world. It is an act of intuition, focus and of being present. After a good amount of walking I enter a neutral state of being, avoid of unnecessary emotion and chatter. Observation without judgement sets in and I think this is the best place for photography to take place too. It is as if I can start to see beyond the usual and to see the usual in a new light. I think it is only at this point camera can be of any good use and the photographer to be able to say something. It is in this state of mind that I am able to photograph not what I see but what I experience.

quiet paved street in a jungle
© Päivi Maria Wells

My walking life reaches way longer back than my photography life and after starting photography I use to keep these two acts as separate. I refused to carry a camera on my walks and saw it as a distraction. I wanted to keep the two worlds separate for the simple reason that I wanted to fully focus on either one while I was on it. I have since become more flexible and now, as I walk, I carry a tiny pocket camera with me (thus much of the images exist for this post). Walking has a tremendous affect on my photography, yet in order to photograph well, I need to forget about it. This is why the camera still most often stays in the bag while I walk.

Walking takes me through my good days and it takes me through all those other ones too. It gives me emotional resilience, clarity and a quiet certainty. The beauty of walking is that it never makes me overly anything but takes me right back to the balance of things. It pulls me out from my own shadows and it draws me back when I start to drift off. Without exception I am always somehow transformed when I return home. Fulfilment that follows after a walk is not happiness, it certainly is not optimism, but a more solid, longer lasting state of mind that resembles perhaps gratefulness.

Like many walkers, I too sometimes dream about setting my feet on to an all together different path. On this journey, a quest of some sort, I would walk long, far and uninterrupted, far from cities, noise and distraction into the new and excitingly unknown territory. And maybe one day my dream will come true. Or maybe not. Either way I keep on walking wherever I am, because I know that if only I can create a quieter path of some sort around me, walking will always take me to the place where I want to be.

I like walking because it is slow,

and suspect that the mind, like the feet,

works at about three miles an hour.

- Rebecca Solnit -



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