Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Yesterday, I reached my goal of hiking 1,000 miles before embarking upon my coast-to-coast trek across England in June.  "An accomplishment," some have already said, but that's not how I really feel about the experience.  I simply feel blessed -- and grateful, of course, that I have have been given an opportunity to spend  a little time dancing with the natural rhythms of the universe, if only for a brief interlude.  Every step was a step of joy, an opportunity to see something new and exciting, a chance to listen to my life and get some sense of my place in the larger scheme of things.

In the region of the south where I spent my youth, shop owners would sometimes offer customers lagniappe after a purchase.  Lagniappe, as I learned from my parents at an early age, is an unearned or undeserved gift that is offered as a kind of bonus or goodwill measure.  Nature, I find, offers lagniappe to walkers.  We go out looking for one thing and we return having received so much more.  As Rebecca Solnit has written in Wanderlust, her fabulous book on the history of walking:
The random, the unscreened, allows you to find what you don't know you are looking for, and you don't know a place until it surprises you.  Walking is one way of maintaining a bulwark against this erosion of the mind, the body, the landscape, and the city, and every walker is a guard on patrol to protect the ineffable.
Walking offers myriad benefits and pleasures, including health, clear thinking, creativity, and spiritual renewal. I am tempted, of course, to write about each of these benefits.  For the moment, however, I simply invite my readers to enjoy what others have said about the joys of walking.

Walking and health --

     Walking is man's best medicine.


     A vigorous five-mile walk will do more good
     for an unhappy but otherwise healthy adult than
     all the medicine and psychology in the world.

     Paul Dudley White
     Renowned Cardiologist

     Above all, do not lose your desire to walk.
     Every day I walk myself into a state of well-being
     and walk away from illness.

     Soren Kierkegaard

     When you have worn out your shoes,
     the strength of the shoe leather has passed
     into the fiber of your body.  I measure your health
     by the number of shoes and hats and clothes you
     have worn out.

     Ralph Waldo Emerson

Walking and thought --

     All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.

     Frederick Nietzsche

     I can only meditate when I am walking.  When I
     stop, I cease to think; my mind works only with
     my legs.

     Jean Jacques Rousseau

Walking and creativity --

     If you are seeking creative ideas, go out walking.
    Angels whisper to a man when he goes for a walk.

     Raymond Inmon

     Nothing like a nighttime stroll to give you ideas.

     J.K. Rowling

Walking and spiritual matters --

     My father considered a walk among the mountains
     as the equivalent of churchgoing.

     Aldous Huxley

     My God is the God of Walkers.  If you walk
     hard enough, you probably don't need any
     other god.

     Bruce Chatwin

Walking and truth --

     Perhaps the truth depends on a walk
     around the lake.

     Wallace Stevens, "It Must be Abstract"

     If you look for the truth outside yourself,
     It gets farther and farther away.
     Today walking alone, I meet it everywhere I step.
     It is the same as me, yet I am not it.
     Only if you understand it in this way
     Will you merge with the way things are.


Walking and final notes --

     I was the world in which I walked, and what I saw
     Or heard or felt came not but from myself;
     And there I found myself more truly and
     more strange.

     Wallace Stevens, "Tea at the Palaz of Hoon"

     The sum of the whole is this: walk and be happy;
     walk and be healthy.  The best way to lengthen out
     our days is to walk steadily and with a purpose.

     Charles Dickens


  1. So enchanting to find your blog, George.. I like what I see here... So much to learn and enjoy..
    ...your paintings are wonderful!!!

    Thank you for visiting.Cheers!

  2. Thanks for the kind comments, Gwen, and thanks for visiting my site. Rest assured that I am looking forward to returning to the postings on your site. You live an amazingly creative life in a beautiful place. It's all very inspirational.

  3. What a delightful mini-tutorial on the joys and benefits of walking. I was especially touched by Solnit's words '...every walker is a guard on patrol to protect the ineffable.'

    One of the concrete, but little known, reasons that walking can produce peace of mind, insight, solutions, communion, etc. is because of the bi-lateral stimulation it gives to the hemispheres of the brain. This bi-lateral stimulation moves us (if perchance we are stuck in our analytical left brain) to a whole brain perspective - and helps process information with a broader perspective. This is the basis of the treatment for complex PTSD called EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). Francine Shapiro who developed this form of therapy would no longer give it the name EMDR, now recognizing that we can also get the benefits from bi-lateral stimulation of many kinds - including walking.

    Thank you for bringing together all these quotes on the joy of walking!

  4. Thanks, Bonnie. I find most of my joy in the right hemisphere of the brain, the creative and intuitive part of myself. One must occasionally return to the left hemisphere, of course, but it's best to go there as a tourist with a plan to return home.

  5. George
    Yes, you never know what you are going to discover when you go out.

  6. If those boots pictured have already logged 1000 miles, then they're holding up well and you'll be doing some serious walking if you hope to wear them out. (As per the quote above by Emerson.)

    There is no better means of exploring and savoring a country—or a neighborhood—than afoot. Moreover, a man whose home is contained in his pack is free, indeed. Adventure doesn't require miles to be covered; but rather that your heart, mind, and eyes remain opened as you find your way.

    I envy you your walk ahead; but I look forward to what you find and share after your adventure.

    Perhaps you already know the books on walks and walking by Colin Fletcher. If not, I highly recommend them…especially THE MAN WHO WALKED THROUGH TIME, and THE THOUSAND MILE SUMMER. I think you'd enjoy Fletcher's wit and intellect, as well as his eye for detail and narrative.

  7. To Grizz,

    Thanks for the comments. The photo is of the new boots I bought about two weeks ago. The pair that I used for most of the 1,000 miles walked thus far are pretty well shot.

    I like your statement that "adventure doesn't require miles to be covered; but rather that your heart, mind, and eyes remain opened as you find your way." I couldn't agree more, and why am I going to Emerson and Thoreau when I can find a quote like that?

    I read one of Colin Fletcher's books some years ago, but I think it's time to revisit his writings. Thanks for the recommendation.

  8. My simple walks alone in the woods have become very important to me. Going off the familiar paths, searching and listening is so renewing. Seeing something new or just the samllest change is rewarding!
    The Tung-Shan quote is now a favorite!

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  10. Wanda,

    I just posted a note (now deleted) apologizing for losing your comment when I tried to publish it. Now, however, it has suddenly appeared. Such are the wonders of technology.

    In any event, I'm glad you also like the Tung-Shan quote. Waling alone across any landscape brings me as close to the truth as I ever hope to get.

  11. Beautiful. I wandered over from Donna's place, and my shoe leather has taken on a nice weathered patina.

  12. Thanks for visiting my site, San, and thanks for the comments. If you are wandering anywhere, you have my support.

    I just discovered your own blog, which looks very fascinating. I love your paintings and I plan to follow what you are doing on your journey. Keep that weathered patina on your shoes.

  13. Congratulations on reaching your 1000 mile goal! I love collecting walking quotes, too, and enjoyed especially the second Wallace Stevens quote which I have not heard before. "I was the world in which I walked." A concise expression of quantum theory/zen!

  14. Oran Mor--

    Thanks, Bev. Best of luck on your camino! When you return, perhaps I can begin quoting you on walking.

  15. Thanks for the lovely selection of reflections. I agree with them all, but most wholeheartedly with that of Paul Dudley White. I just started Rebecca Solnit's book on Monday. It really is exceptional.

  16. To Fireweed Meadow,

    Glad you enjoyed this posting and the quotes, and I agree with you about Solnit's book. It's truly exceptional.