Attention series No. 3: walking with wandering body & mind

Set off walking, active body

Quite quickly a rhythm settled in, a steady, fairly fast pace

I heard cars close-by to my left, on the A48

To my right the River Severn, and from a distance of around 10 miles, a rumbling noise, from the M5

The terrain underfoot level and there are no obstacles, I found an even stride easily

My attention moved away from external sounds and came closer to my body, to my footsteps, to something rattling in my backpack, to my thinking body

My walking no longer needed an active mind, my gear slipped into automatic


I paid attention to my speed and pace, how regular it was

My thinking turned to drumming patterns

Before lockdown I was learning Taiko drumming

I find it very hard to do different rhythms with different limbs at the same time

I practiced doing this while I walked

Stepping 1, 2, 3, 4, left arm up, 2, 3, 4 left arm up – yes, easy!

Then alternated arms, taking an odd number of beats

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 left arm up

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 right arm up.

Yes – that worked too!


I walked like that for a mile or so, throwing arms up in flips and flings, marching steadily

Drivers passing by were quite likely mildly amused

I didn’t care

I was on my way to the riverbank, my special place

And I felt I was improving my body, mind and Taiko playing

Once I hit the area where the path is close to the A48 I switched mode again

Underfoot was still ok but the path next to the road arrowed

One slip and I would be in the road, potential roadkill


I diverted my attention back to my whole body, in the hope of keeping it so

On my right, just under the railway bridge, the hedges were encroaching

The crows above were making their massive noise

A jogger appeared from nowhere

Social distancing resulted in his stepping onto the road for a few scary seconds

I turned right at the house with the odd ticking noise coming from it

When I first started walking that route regularly, I thought there was something rattling in my bag

Like the ball bearing does in my can of fixative

But I eventually realised it was coming from the house

Which was confirmed, when asked, by the owner – a security alarm

I crossed the railway line with care and wandered through the orchard down to the riverbank

Then I headed for the swing that hangs from the oak tree


The field had recently been ploughed, already green lines of seedlings were appearing

I had to watch my footfall there, very uneven

Making me aware of my physical vulnerability

Then I got to the swing – recently designated to be my crying place

Not necessarily sad – I sometimes cry with joy there too!

I don’t sit on the swing on my way out, because I am on a mission, a destination beyond the swing

But I did stop and enjoy the view, notice the gulls on the mudflats, the high contrast edges of the wet sandbanks against the pale grey water


I looked across at Garden Cliff, it’s red sandstone marking the corner of the bend, where the Severn flows between Rodley on west bank and Framilode on the east

I took my first photos of the walk, of the swing, shadows on the ground and the river

As I stood facing the river I heard a train pass by behind me, wending it’s way from Gloucester to Wales

I wondered, if due to the variance of lockdown rule, whether or not people are allowed to get off the train at Chepstow

I recalled that when I first started taking pairs of panoramic photos, they were shot as pairs

By taking a photo of the key view in front of me, for example the sea-view or the river

Then rotating and taking the parallel, less noticed view


I would then look at them together as a relational pair

An arrangement that created brackets of my presence, as I was always in the centre of the scene, never in the pictures

In the olden days, in the days of dark rooms, you bracketed your shots with different settings

We’re all digital now

I set off along the riverbank, following the path that took me under two wonderful oak trees.

They were like brackets too

I took more photos

I took some pairs of panoramas, just for old-time’s sake


As the path veered away from the river I left it and waded through the long grass to my destination

I had to stop my intellectual thoughts, give attention to my body again

Checking whether the ground was solid or not

Avoiding ledges hidden in the grass, or brambles that lashed around my ankles

Once in my little place by the river I set up my video camera, framing, surveying the activity

I had my monocular with me

While the camera rolled and captured the wildlife, I zoomed in to other things

My wandering eye switching between aided and un-assisted viewing

Through the monocular lens I saw a red ball in the mudflats

Then searched for with naked eyes

It took many attempts to find it, so I could film it

Sometimes, however much we want to see something clearly, we simply can’t

Vision and perception are tightly connected


I packed up to return, both relaxed and exhausted

I realise as I write this up that all the time I was there I was focussed on the visual

Yes, I heard the trains, the traffic and the crows and gulls on the mudflats and in the sky, but my attention was not on them, sound was peripheral

To my intention

To my attention

Wandering, wondering, walking






1 thought on “Attention series No. 3: walking with wandering body & mind

  1. Pingback: Attention series No. 3: walking with wandering body & mind – Flow Contemporary Arts

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