This ancient Latin phrase loosely translates as “It is solved by walking.” A walk is a journey that requires very little — neither planning nor passport, neither ticket nor equipment. Nearly always at our disposal, a walk provides so much more than just a change of scenery. Walking has helped me decide what is wise and what is foolhardy, has made me fall in love with a place, has batted away my melancholy. Walking has helped me loosen the grip technology has on my life, giving me space and permission to disconnect from my devices that beg for my attention and feed my anxiety. Most of all, walking has nurtured my creativity as I struggle to give tangible form to abstract ideas.
~ Bonnie Smith Whitehouse, in the introduction to Afoot and Lighthearted: A Journal for Mindful Walking
I do not write this in a spirit of sourness or personal disappointment of any kind, nor do I have any romantic attachment to suffering as a source of insight or virtue. On the contrary, I would like to see more smiles, more laughter, more hugs, more happiness and, better yet, joy. In my own vision of utopia, there is not only more comfort, and security for everyone — better jobs, health care, and so forth — there are also more parties, festivities, and opportunities for dancing in the streets. Once our basic material needs are met — in my utopia, anyway — life becomes a perpetual celebration in which everyone has a talent to contribute. But we cannot levitate ourselves into that blessed condition by wishing it. We need to brace ourselves for a struggle against terrifying obstacles, both of our own making and imposed by the natural world. And the first step is to recover from the mass delusion that is positive thinking.
~ Barbara Ehrenreich, Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking has Undermined America
It’s no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.
~ Saint Francis of Assisi
Walking, in particular drifting, or strolling, is already — with the speed of culture of our time — a kind of resistance… A very immediate method for unfolding stories.
~ Francis Alys
We do not know how this pandemic will change our lives, change the scenery of our world. For how long will “social distancing” remain? Will we ever return to cheap crowded flights? How long and desperate will the food lines get? It is as if someone has pulled the thread that held it all together, even as we struggle to “return to normal.” But the question is, what story are we trying to tell ourselves? Or are we between stories, in a state of unknowing and insecurity? What are our dreams telling us, what is the message of our hearts? As Leonard Cohen sings, “There is a crack in everything, That’s how the light gets in.” Is this a moment when the light can come in through the cracks, through the structures in our civilization that have been shown to fail?
~ Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee
Only through our connectedness to others can we really know and enhance self. And only through working on the self can we begin to enhance our connectedness to others.
~ Harriet Goldhor Lerner
Gain health from lusty, heroic exercise, from free, firm-nerved adventures without anxiety in them, with rhythmic leg motion in runs over boulders requiring quick decision for every step. Fording streams, tingling with flesh brushes as we slide down white slopes thatched with close snow-pressed chaparral, half swimming or flying or slipping — all these make good counter-irritants. Then enjoy the utter peace and solemnity of the trees and stars… Find a mysterious presence in a thousand coy hiding things.
~ John Muir
For so many people throughout space and time, a walk has been a productive, vibrant way to step away from everyday life and gain a refreshed perspective. Aristotle and the peripatetic philosophers walked as a way to inquire philosophically and to educate others. In preparation for his ministry, Jesus walked through the desert for forty days. The Buddha walked for years before he found enlightenment. Indigenous Australians memorized and passed down songlines to trace and communicate invisible pathways across the continent, marking their ancestors’ routes and guiding them across a vast continent. Walkers have walked to gain a sense of place, to improve well-being, to harness attention, to cultivate awareness, to gain new experiences, to explore new territories, to march for freedom, and to express care and devotion for others.
… May we all show up for this magnificent world and its inhabitants as we walk, kissing the very earth with our footsteps.
~ Bonnie Smith Whitehouse, Afoot and Lighthearted: A Journal for Mindful Walking
This is not a season
but a pause
between one future & another,
a day after a day,
a breathing space before death,
a breathing, the rain
throwing itself down out of the
bluegrey sky, clear joy.
~ Margaret Atwood, from Rain