Guest Writer

Today we have a guest writer, sort of. One of my favorites, Henry David Thoreau and the first few paragraphs of his essay “Walking.” I recently discovered this essay and especially like these few paragraphs. Classic Thoreau through and through.

I WISH TO SPEAK a word for nature, for absolute Freedom and Wildness, as contrasted with a freedom and Culture merely civil,—to regard man as an inhabitant, or a part and parcel of Nature, rather than a member of society. I wish to make an extreme statement, if so I may make a emphatic one, for there are enough champions of civilization; the minister, and the school-committee, and every one of you will take care of that.

Hiese Pond, Fort Jackson, South Carolina

I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art of Walking, that is, of taking walks, who had a genius, so to speak, for sauntering; which word is beautifully derived “from idle people who roved about the country, in the middle ages, and asked charity, under pretence of going à la sainte terre“—to the holy land, till the children exclaimed, “There goes a sainte-terrer“, a saunterer—a holy-lander. They who never go to the holy land in their walks, as they pretend, are indeed mere idlers and vagabonds, but they who do go there are saunterers in the good sense, such as I mean. Some, however, would derive the word from sans terre, without land or a home, which, therefore, in the good sense, will mean, having no particular home, but equally at home everywhere. For this is the secret of successful sauntering. He who sits still in a house all the time may be the greatest vagrant of all, but the Saunterer, in the good sense, is no more vagrant than the meandering river, which is all the while sedulously seeking the shortest course to the sea. But I prefer the first, which indeed is the most probable derivation. For every walk is a sort of crusade, preached by some Peter the Hermit in us, to go forth and reconquer this holy land from the hands of the Infidels.

Gem Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

It is true, we are but faint hearted crusaders, even the walkers, now-a-days, who undertake no persevering never ending enterprises. Our expeditions are but tours and come round again at evening to the old hearth side from which we set out. Half the walk is but retracing our steps. We should go forth on the shortest walk, perchance, in the spirit of undying adventure, never to return; prepared to send back our embalmed hearts only, as relics to our desolate kingdoms. If you are ready to leave father and mother, and brother and sister, and wife and child and friends, and never see them again; if you have paid your debts, and made your will, and settled all your affairs, and are a free man; then you are ready for a walk.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Guest Writer

  1. very nice selection by Thoreau; I fear I shall never be a saunterer though

  2. I take sauntering very seriously, considering it at least, if not more, important than porch swing sitting. Both of which have provided me with much bird and dragonfly observation and photography. Over the years, I have come to the realization that it is a calling, an important job, a legitimate task for those with certain sensitivities. Wandering for many minutes without guilt while observing and enjoying the wonders of our earth is as important a task for keeping humans in balance with the earth as was originally one of the functions of music or art. The more the young ones stray from the pursuit of balance, in their art, music and social interaction, the harder we “saunterers” have to work by putting longer hours in at what others might see as idleness. We are really striving to put things “toward the light”, to counteract the tipping culture toward the dark, by the very action of our quiet recognition of earths wild blessings.

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