This post was written by Holly Boud, Humanities Center intern.
I should preface this post by saying that I am spending two months touring the UK on a British literature and landscape tour. Everything that follows is reflective of this experience.
This study abroad focuses on understanding the literature of Britain in different eras as well as creative writing. Creative writing is a new pursuit for me. These blog posts have been the most creative writing I have done outside of my personal journal, so I am a novice at best.
I am a person that spends more time than is healthy worrying about my body. From poor body image in my adolescence (who didn’t/doesn’t struggle with that?) to embracing organic food and clean eating and being aware of food’s effects on me, I feel like I can say that I have a lot of experience thinking about my body. This experience hiking around the UK, however, has shifted my perspective in interesting ways.
A few weeks ago I was agonizing trying to finish a paper. I spent upwards of forty hours probably reading, writing, thinking, outlining–sitting in front of my computer physically stationary but intellectually exhausting. I was utterly unaware or at least ambivalent towards my body as I privileged the intense focus on my mind. When I hit send finally, I waited for a sense of relief and freedom, but it was a little underwhelming. Mostly I felt exhausted and drained. Then a few days ago, after a grueling seven hour hike to the summit and in a moment of spontaneity, I jumped in Loch Lomond. I dunked my head and felt the water rush over me, erasing the physical pain of the former days. The cold water shocked my senses and clenched my muscles, but I felt so free.
In the last 10 days, I have hiked over 100 miles. I have experienced a wide range of pain. My feet ache. I have had some pretty gnarly blisters, one of which got infected. The burning of my quads attends me as I climb up steep ascents. I have this wicked nerve in my big toe that flares up every now and then. I keep finding random bruises all over–on my legs and my arms. My sunburn on my face gently aches (yes, it has been sunny in the UK enough to burn the paler among us–I’ve never had that experience before!). I am aware of my body in different ways than I have ever been before.
As an academic, my work and my life revolves in the sphere of ideas. I think and talk and read and write, all things that separate my mind from the physical world around me. When I interact with sensation/the world around me, it is often in ways to analyze and categorize and theorize. Having so much time exerting my physical body, however, has brought me out of the ethereal and into the visceral, temporal world. I feel connected not only to the nature around me but to my body. I appreciate what she can do this body of mine. I marvel at the ways she has been able to climb every summit and carries me safely back down. She recovers from injury. She fights off infection. She metabolizes food in ways that make me understand for the first time in my life what it must be like to be a twelve-year-old boy. It’s been amazing to think about.
Of course I can’t totally sign up for a life only saturated in the physical world–here I am writing a blog post contemplating it and theorizing. I am curious as to how this experience connects with, conflicts with, or complicates my reality in the realm of ideas. I think my body is informing my mind in important ways. The whole notion of connecting with something mind, body, and soul has taken on a whole new meaning. I don’t really know what to do with these rambling thoughts, but it feels like the beginnings of a long essay. I feel like I could explore these ideas for days. Who would have thought I’d ever write creatively??