Annabel Abbs looks at walking with a feminist's eye, writing about Simone de Beauvoir, Nan Shepherd, Frieda Lawrence, Georgia O’Keefe, and many more who walked and found inspiration that deeply impacted their lives.
Windswept: Walking the Path of Trailblazing Women by Annabel Abbs, Tin House Books
Walking. Many of us walk to spark inspiration, to sift through our thoughts, to connect with the natural world around us. We wander to explore the world outside, and the world inside ourselves. Annabel Abbs realized how much the act of walking means to life itself, but when researching the act of walking and looking over her books on the topic, she was disturbed to find most held the names of men. She began a new adventure of seeking female writers, women who journeyed through wild landscapes through the means of walking, and wrote about it. She looks at walking with a feminist's eye, writing about Simone de Beauvoir, Nan Shepherd, Frieda Lawrence, Georgia O’Keefe, and many more who walked and found inspiration that deeply impacted their lives.
These women walked in order to find minds of their own. They walked for emotional restitution. They walked to understand the capabilities of their own bodies. They walked to assert their independence. They walked to become.
It is a lovely ode to moving one foot in front of the other through the eyes of women who have walked in the past, who made the landscapes around them their own through their own expressions on it, who blazed the trails before us. Some familiar, others semi-lost throughout time, hidden by the men who walked over them. It is a book that asks why women have been so overlooked when it comes to nature writing and the act of discovering the outdoors through the simple and wondrous act of walking, and answers, in part, by raising their voices up.
Abbs also beautifully mentions some of the scientific research into how walking impacts the mind and body, something the women she writes about may not have known at the time, yet is clearly shown in their own writing.
There’s something about walking in green space that enables us to exist in the moment in a way nothing else does. Not even meditation. The combination of movement and landscape affects our brain in extraordinary ways. Not only do we become less anxious, less prone to brooding, less vulnerable to negative emotion, but we also gain an enhanced ability to focus on what’s around us.
Part memoir, part history, Windswept follows the literal footsteps of the trailblazing women who walked before us.