Discover more from The Isolation Journals with Suleika Jaouad
Prompt 261. The Singular Glory of a Solo Walk
An essay & prompt on getting out of your head and into your body
I’ve spent the last week in rural New Jersey, so happy to be back in this place I love. My best friend Lizzie came to visit and brought Lionel, her yellow lab, and we’re having the best time—lounging on the back porch, ambling around the yard, playing fetch with the dogs. The weather is warm, so it still feels like summer, but we’re getting a few hints of fall. The nurseries are brimming with pumpkins, and at night, the slightest chill arrives. From time to time, a gust of wind shakes the first turning leaves from the trees. It’s beautiful to witness.
It makes me think of the long walks I used to take on the towpath by the Delaware River when I first moved here three years ago, which were such a respite in those strange, turbulent, peak-pandemic times. In the weeks leading up to our move, I had been achy and feverish. Eventually I noted the telltale bulls-eye rash of Lyme disease, and I took a trip to urgent care. When the lab reports came back, they showed I had very low blood counts, and though the doctor told me that Lyme can have that effect, I was worried. So I got up each morning and channeled my dad, who is the consummate walker, who treks between eight and ten miles every day, rain or shine. (When he visits, at some point each day, he says, “Yalla, tie your shoes!” or sometimes “Je vais te promener,” which translates as, “I will walk you”—as if I’m a dog.) I strolled along the towpath, which at this time of year is still a tunnel of green. Not only did those walks bring me solace, they made me fall in love with this place. They led me home.
Around that time, I shared an essay and prompt called “The Singular Glory of a Solo Walk,” about the power and intuition of the body and its connection to the mind. I revisited it just the other day, and it was strange to reflect on everything that has transpired since. Back then, I was contemplating a new book project on the alchemical properties of journaling. Carmen had driven up from Texas to spend a month here, and we took countless walks together along the towpath, dreaming about what this book could be.
When I got sick, that book idea was shelved, along with so many other plans. It was disappointing, even devastating, to put so much on hold, but I feel weirdly grateful now. Every creative project has its own mysterious timeline—something I’ve learned to accept (albeit reluctantly). I’m just picking up that book project again, and I’m bringing such a different, deeper perspective because of everything that’s happened in the last three years. I’m looking forward to hitting the towpath again, this time with River and Sunshine—who thanks to her big sister is getting so good on the leash (though she takes five adorable little prancing steps to catch up with River’s elegant lope)—and continuing to dream about what this book will be.
It’s with all this in mind that today I’m resharing that essay and prompt on the glory of walking. May it get you back into your body, calm your spirit, and spur your mind.
P.S. One of the great joys of journaling is revisiting old entries, reading with the knowledge you have now, plotting the distance between those points. So if you’ve done this prompt before, maybe pull out your old journal and reflect on how far you’ve come.
Some Items of Note—
We’re meeting at the Hatch, our virtual creative hour today, September 17, from 1-2 pm ET. It’s always the most uplifting, creatively generative time. Find everything you need to join us here!
In need of a little pick-me-up? Check out the Isolation Journals Chat, where every Friday, we send up our small joys in a chorus of collective gratitude. Mine this week was the blossoming love between my new rescue pup Sunshine and my husband Jon. I’d love to hear yours!
Our Letters from Love workshop with Elizabeth Gilbert was one of the most transformative hours I’ve ever spent, and I’ve heard from so many others who felt the same. As one community member commented, “I came in a skeptic and left deeply touched.” Paid subscribers can access the video replay here!
Prompt 261. The Singular Glory of a Solo Walk by Suleika Jaouad
(Originally published August 2, 2020)
In March 2020, I was working on a grueling last edit of my memoir Between Two Kingdoms. From early in the morning until late at night, I sat hunched over my computer in my parents’ attic, second-guessing every comma, rethinking every word. I was panicking, sure it was a total disaster, and my quarantine roommate Carmen offered to read the entire manuscript out loud with me. Between the stress of the deadline and being so sedentary, our bodies ached. From time to time, we’d take a break—walking in the woods and stopping for a spontaneous snowball fight, or doing yoga there in the attic.
One afternoon, we were both in downward dog, and I said to Carmen, “I have an idea.” I rambled something vague about journaling prompts and helping others complete a 100-day project. “Go write that down,” Carmen told me. “Now—before you forget it.” And I got up from the mat, and I did. I didn’t expect it would go anywhere, at least not immediately. But writing it down made the idea seem more real, and that seed of an idea—one that had occurred in a moment when I was giving my mind a break—sprouted a week later into the Isolation Journals.
This isn’t a one-off. When I’m stuck and can’t work something out on the page, or when my head is too full of chatter, I’ve learned to get out of my mind and into my body. I go for a walk, and as I move and fall into a rhythm, the chatter quiets. Whatever knots my thoughts are in begin to loosen.
It happened just yesterday. Over the weekend, Jon and I moved to an artist’s residency, to a house near a river with miles and miles of walking paths. I’ve been sick—last week I tested positive for Lyme disease, which has made my joints swollen, my movements slow and labored. But yesterday morning, I felt good enough to take a walk, and on a long gentle amble, I began to get an idea of what I want to write next.
Right now, I’m just seeing little glimpses, like glints of sunlight on the river, but it feels good to be inspired again. As I settle into our new digs, I’m setting a new intention to take a quiet, solitary morning walk before I write. I trust that soon enough, the seed of this next idea will begin to sprout.
Your prompt for the week:
Begin with a movement that roots you in your body. Maybe take a walk outside, or waltz around your house, or take deep breaths and blow each exhale through loose horse lips. Do this for as long as you’d like. Then write about what came up.
For more paid subscriber benefits, see—
Goodbye to All That, an installment of my advice column Dear Susu, where I write about leaving New York City, real estate, and big dreams
On Wonder, a video replay of my Studio Visit with the bestselling author and adventurer Jedidiah Jenkins, where we talked about forks in the road, speaking things into existence, and the ongoing adventure of becoming
Letters from Love, a video replay of our workshop with the bestselling author and speaker Elizabeth Gilbert, where she shares her decades-long spiritual practice for combating self-criticism and tapping into an ocean of unconditional love