In my room, the world is beyond my understanding. But when I walk I see that it consists of three or four hills and a cloud. WALLACE STEVENS Of The Surface Of Things
Why do we go walking? It's an interesting question. We start to walk as soon as we wake up in the morning. We walk to the bathroom. We go downstairs. We visit the shops to buy groceries. We drag the dog round the block. We walk to our friends' houses and post Christmas cards through their letterboxes. In other words, we walk all the time, without thinking about it. It's a natural, practical way of getting from A to B, and we do it automatically.
But we may also have a regular walk we take each evening, say, when we 'beat the bounds' of our neighbourhood. Or we may even have a longer 'constitutional' stroll we perform ritualistically every Sunday. Some of us may take it much further - go on more demanding two day hikes through the whole weekend, book walking holidays, or undertake strenuous, multi-week treks over difficult terrain. This type of walking is different in kind from our normal, practical, functional walking activities.
So why, in a deeper sense, do we go walking? The question is more profound than it might at first appear, and the answers sweep us up into vast realms. In fact these answers cover all subjects and all experiences. They cover the whole world, like footprints stretching endlessly through Arctic snow or desert sand. Walking can be seen as pilgrimage, therapy, exploration. It can be a means of reflection and meditation. Astonishingly it's also a path through history, philosophy, art and metaphor. Above all it's a gateway to freedom. And, as Rebecca Solnit says in her book Wanderlust: The history of walking is everyone's history. The world of walking is one of the few democracies in which we may all truly and equally share.
I'd like to take you on a ten-part journey through the limitless country of walking. This sequence will reflect on Walking as Exercise, Walking as Therapy, Walking as Meditation, the Simplicity of Walking, Walking as a Portal to Discovery and Freedom, the Spiritual Nature of Walking, Walking as Pilgrimage, Walking as Art, and the Zen of Walking.
I look forward to your company on this physical, mental and spiritual voyage ...