Thought I'd lost my copy of Rebecca Solnit's Wanderlust, which I felt a sudden impulse to haul to the hammock last night, but it turned up just in time. (A quick archive search shows I last dipped into it exactly a year ago. There seems to be a seasonal pattern to my biblio-promiscuity.)
One of Solnit's opening epigraphs notes an old eskimo custom of sending angry persons walking, to walk off the emotional excess. Nowadays people tend to get behind the wheel, when they've just got to get away. The eskimo way was better, for people and planet alike. Safer. More respectful of the elders. But children in every culture have always found ways to tweak the elders, much as we sometimes think "kids these days" are worse.
Another epigraph, from Wallace Stevens, indicates a problem with staying too long in your room. Exactly. Solnit says "I sat down one spring day to write about walking and stood up again, because a desk is no place to think on the large scale."
That's why, in the warmer months, mine is a lap desk nestled between the arms of the glider out back, positioned to glimpse dawn's first light when I look up from the shadows it casts on notebook and keyboard. Those shadows are a signpost, pointing away from the cave and into the light.
Just as Steve Pinker was saying of writing, that it should evoke a conversational feeling, so it is with wandering.
Walking, ideally, is a state in which the mind, the body, and the world are aligned,And, as the Buddhist walking meditators remind us, it leaves us free not to think. On the large scale.
as though they were three characters finally in conversation together, three notes
suddenly making a chord. Walking allows us to be in our bodies and in the world without being made busy by them. It leaves us free to think without being wholly lost in our thoughts.