Walking home

This last week or so I’ve been walking home from work on the three days a week that I’m in the office. It takes me about an hour to get from my office to my front door, which is about double the time that it would take if I caught the tram, but I much prefer it.

When I was teaching yoga full-time in Sydney last year, I walked fair distances very regularly. I didn’t realise until I started walking home from my current work just how much I missed it. Walking somewhere gives me a feeling of being capable, on a very basic level, in a way that catching public transport or driving somewhere doesn’t. My body can get me there.

And walking for an hour definitely gives me a good sense of my body – not really of what it looks like, but of what it feels like. When I walk, eventually all the little tight bits make themselves known to me, and the dodgy alignment of my hips and shoulders is increasingly obvious (a side note: when I walk long distances shortly after an osteo session, where my skeleton is nicely aligned, it’s absolutely magic). After an hour’s walk my feet are sore and I’m tired. I sleep better.

Now that autumn’s upon us, walking home in the evening means facing the chill in the air. Something I loved about walking places in winter when I lived in Sydney was watching my body warm itself up with movement. I’d leave the house layered up with jumpers, jackets, gloves and scarves, and usually by the time I’d reached my destination, I’d taken most of it off, even when it was a very cold day.

Walking home this last week or so, I’ve been aware again of that warming process, and I’m still amazed by it (even though it makes complete sense). In cool weather, walking warms me up from the inside, and I love the contrast between that internal warmth and the coolness of the exposed skin of my face and hands.

Walking home, Princes Park It’s always been my habit to end up with favourite sections of regular walks. They’re usually parks or nature strips of some description. I have a feeling my favourite bit of my walk home from Melbourne City to Brunswick will end up being the section along Royal Parade where I can walk along the edge of Princes Park (pictured). Walking, more than anything else, is what helps me feel like I’m really in a place. There’s something about moving through the same place on a regular basis that helps it really sink in.

Of course, the other fantastic thing about walking home is that by the time I get there, I’m calm. Walking, like yoga, helps me move my way through frustration and anxiety. Regular walking (and regular yoga, for that matter) makes me a generally calmer person. This can’t be a bad thing.

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EWF blog post ~ You’re getting sleeeepy (or not): sleep, sleeplessness and the brain

I’ve got another essay up on the Emerging Writers’ Festival Blog. This one’s about sleep, sleeplessness and the brain.

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It’s 3.37am. My bedroom is dark, the edges of all the things in it are fuzzy. I’ve been woken by the whirring of a forklift driving around inside a chicken wholesaler warehouse two doors down from my place in a semi-industrial part of Melbourne’s Brunswick. It beeps as it reverses. Every now and then, someone throws solid objects into a skip that sits outside the business’ front door. I lay awake for hours, fuming, despairing, turning from side to side. I get up a few times to look, unsuccessfully, for the earplugs I know I own.

It’s not a particularly warm night, but at about 4.15am, my body temperature soars, and I have to throw off all the covers, lie in a starfish shape in the middle of the bed, and consciously slow my breath down. I’m overheating because I’m angry. I’m seriously considering going outside in my pyjamas to yell at the forklift driver about noise rules in mixed-zone areas, but then I start to worry about what, exactly, a business is doing moving stock around at that time of day. What is it? Is it part of their legitimate business? Do I live a few doors down from a ‘business man’ rather than a business man? Might I be risking my safety if I complain? And the paranoid spiral continues until the noise finally stops at 6.30am.

Eventually, some time around 7am, I drag myself out of bed and stumble through the day not entirely sure whether I’m awake or asleep. My limbs are heavy and I can feel my body’s exhaustion like the very beginning of pins and needles. I manage, somehow, to call the council and make enough sense that they understand I’m making a noise complaint.

Every now and then I have a bout of sleeplessness, although I’d not go as far as calling myself an insomniac. Most often my sleeplessness is related to noisy neighbours — jackhammers at 7am on a Sunday, idiotic first-home-away-from-homers exploding aerosol cans in a barrel fire under my window late at night in their tiny inner-city back courtyard. Not sleeping fills me with dread; a long-lasting anxiety that, ironically but unsurprisingly, makes it more difficult for me to sleep. I worry about being as useless as I was the day after the all-night forklift.

After that night, I set out to find out what the relationship between my writing work and my sleep (or lack thereof) might be, and ideally to figure out how to encourage a good night’s shut eye.

Read more here.