“Solvitur ambulando” – it is solved by walking – or so the saying goes. A phrase and concept often attributed to Saint Augustine, it has arisen again and again in everything from the works of Henry David Thoreau, to Louis Carroll’s “What The Tortoise Said To Achilles“, to becoming the adopted slogan of The Wander Society (a beautiful and mysterious society which I strongly encourage you to explore). The idea that we can resolve something by walking is probably more commonly expressed in the, rather less poetic, phrase ‘walk it off’. But where ‘walk it off’ is often used in a dismissive, sometimes scornful tone, delivered to suggest that we are making too big a deal of something and that we should just get over it, ‘solvitur ambulando’ instead extends to us an invitation. The idea that ‘it is solved by walking’ opens up a space for us to wander with our problems rather than fight or ignore them; it provides the opportunity to get them out in the open and see them in the light of a wider perspective.
I am currently holed up in the heart of the Machar Peninsula in Scotland, with my husband and our dog; we have come to escape the chaos of home renovations and the general busyness of life. We have been enjoying lazy mornings and long walks and it is bliss.
After a few weeks of high anxiety, the peace and quiet we have found here is a balm for the soul. And as we have walked I have felt the tension in me ebb and ease away. It isn’t that walking has magically cured me of anxiety. But the act of walking and the opportunity to be in nature has been soothing, as it has given my anxieties perspective: an understanding that even if that worst case scenario happens, the world will continue to turn and the trees will continue to grow and the rain will continue to fall. And that is beautiful. My anxious worries shrink to a more reasonable size with every step, the end of summer rain washing some of the accumulated grime of stress away.
Living somehow seems much easier when you’re standing on a forest path, on the edge of a mountain, overlooking a loch.
Taking advantage of the calm and healing offered by being out in nature doesn’t have to happen in a remote Scottish forest though. I really to encourage you to wander however and wherever you can. Wander to a local park; sit in your garden and let your eyes wander; find a tree on a nearby street and let your eyes and hands wander that little world; look up at the sky and let your mind wander its immensity.
If you do, however, have the means and opportunity to explore further afield, then do so. Sometimes we need to put ourselves in a different environment in order to break a cycle of thoughts or feelings. Sometimes we forget that we are a part of nature, and being in nature can reconnect us and ground us in the universe in a way nothing else can.
Let the sky and the trees and the very ground remind you that you belong in this world, you are meant to be here, you are as worthy as any other part of nature.