For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move. ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Not Quite Free And Ready

Well, that's quite enough reflecting for a while. On to the penitential bit! God knows, I've enough to be penitential about. The glory stage seems impossibly far off as I write this, morosely cocooned in the house in the middle of Britain's Big Chill. Must get out for a walk or two in preparation for the Big Walk which I start in mid-January - the Vía de la Plata pilgrimage route from Seville to Santiago.

Talking of walking, here's what Thoreau had to say on the subject...

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 an 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.

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 pretense of going à la Saint 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.

It is true, we are but faint-hearted crusaders, even the walkers, nowadays, who undertake no persevering, never-ending enterprises. Our expeditions are but tours, and come round again at evening to the old hearthside 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 underlying 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, 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.

Hmm... Better fill in that Income Tax Return and pay that gas bill as soon as I can...

8 comments:

The Weaver of Grass said...

All i can say Robert - as you embark shortly on another long distance walk - you are a glutton for punishment.

The Solitary Walker said...

Aha, Pat - I see you understand the penitence bit...

... but I fear the walk will be far too enjoyable to be too punishing!

gleaner said...

These posts on walking are helpful prompts for me to return to taking regular walks and also to do some re-reading of Thoreau's writings on walking for additional inspiration.

Thoreau always amazes me with his timeless observations.

So this last day of the decade I am off for a walk and possible a walk in a summer rainstorm - afterall, I cannot become a vagrant.

Looking forward to your posts next year!

gleaner said...

I had to come back and tell you that the time difference between the northern and southern hemisphere is still the same...this morning when I read your post I somehow thought it said the 30th Dec and so thought it was the 31 Dec here...bizarre of me but I didn't realise till mid-afternoon that it wasn't the 31Dec...I'm obviously keen to start the new year and be rid of 2009!

The Solitary Walker said...

The year is dead. Long live the year!

Tim Shey said...

"A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for."

--William Shedd

Timecheck said...

Robert, I know you have more on this route, but I can't find it anymore. Where is it?

The Solitary Walker said...

Just keep clicking back 'Newer Posts', Raph. However, it'a very impressionistic, and hardly a blow-by-blow account! Just occasional random jottings and some videos of the route.