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  • Writer's picturecherylmurfin

Squirrel! And Other Creativity Killers

Updated: Feb 25, 2021


Cheryl Murfin

This blog won’t always be focused on the physical act of walking. It will morph as I morph because my intention here is to create a place to lay out fruits of creativity – the writing, photography, or other artistic endeavors that I, or perhaps you, feel compelled to create and share in the desire to be seen and heard and to connect.


But walking has become for me a necessary tool for the creative process. Why necessary? Well, if you know me, you know that I have a particularly hyperactive body and hypervigilant mind. I am skinny. I find it hard to stop moving. At a family dinner, I am that one who pops up and down whether or not I’m hosting.


Likewise, I flit among the ideas and stories in my head and the projects in my hands like a bee in a field of wildflowers. I lose focus.


All that is to say that my own “Squirrel!” impulse is almost as strong as Posie’s — and that’s saying a lot. I’ve seen my sweet dog dash mindlessly across four lanes of traffic in pursuit of that elusive fluffy-tailed tease. She almost jumped off a cliff last summer hoping to catch a bird.


I have found that the rhythm and movement of walking, the crunching of gravel under my shoes or the plod-plod-plod of sneakers on pavement, quiets my body and engages my focus. In the quietude I do my best problem solving and my deepest, most clear thinking. I let go of perfectionism and allow myself to play with words and images. I see into the details of not only the landscape around me, but the one within me. With the racing river of my physical/mental agitation slowed and contained, creative output seems to flow more easily.


I love that a lot of scientific research and my own experiments prove this out. Because there are, of course, days when I don’t or can’t walk before I sit down to write. On those days I often feel blocked, unsure, at a loss for words. My mind wanders. I fall prey to depression and feeling like I am not “doing” enough. Walking has become not only a key to unlocking my words but also to locking in my incessant need to “do.”


I’m not sure why it took me so long to figure this out. I was given a huge clue to the relationship between movement and focus many years ago — way before graduate school where the link was a big part of my exploration. One day when my son was in elementary school his teacher brought exercise balls and playdough into the classroom. These tools were not used for exercise or art. Instead, she replaced the students’ chairs with balls and placed the dough in the middle of each desk. The kids were invited to fiddle and bounce as a lesson was being taught. It worked. With their bodies busy, the students soaked the lessons in. Every single child in the class experienced test-measured improvement in retaining information.


I wish someone had given me a ball and clay in school. I got good grades but boy, it was a struggle for me to sit still.


Still I’m sure grateful I’ve got them now, a ball and dough in the form of two feet moving along a path; movement setting my self-awareness and creative spirit free.


Today when I hit the road, what I saw was the road. I mean the actual expanse of it, the packed-down asphalt, the line separating walkers from bikers. And that got me thinking about, well, roads. What a road is, what it represents.


Just as walking has become both a critical writing tool and a metaphor for listening, seeing, and hearing, the road itself is both conduit and metaphor. Looking down at it today, it hit me that there are always two directions to a road, the one we choose and the one we don’t.


The thing is, neither are good or bad. If those directions kept going they’d eventually meet up around the globe, they’d just have different stories to tell about how they got there.

Jonathan Kos-Read

I invite you to share your fruits with me and maybe even allow me to share what feels like a good fit. Or, share your fruits in the comments. Create a dialogue with me. Here's what grew on the branches of my walking today:


Defining a Road


what is a road

but a way

leading

one direction

and also

the other


what is a road

but a way

flat at valley

steep at mountain

a line blazed

by fire and sweat


what is a road

but a way

an arrow pointed

at a horizon

a series of events

a course of actions


what is a road

but a way

that starts

where you step

and finishes

where you stop


what is a road

but a way

that goes

left but also right

and is right or wrong

only by your choosing


what is a road

but a way

that leads

and carries

and wears the soles of your feet

then continues on without you


what is a road

but a way

A line of pavement

or gravel

or dirt

that others tread before you


what is it?

what is it?

a road

that road

this road


what is it

but a place you put your feet

and say “go.”


what is it

but the the place you are now

looking

frantically

for the place you will be


as if you could see it

from here


____________________________


Going


I know this path well

I do not know where it’s going


____________________________


Sand walk


I take my shoes off

The sand is soft

Whispery beneath my feet

Like velvet feels

On a cool day

As my hand move across it

And the fibers tickle


Joe Shapiro

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