Friday, January 11, 2013


In the Yorkshire Dales

As one who has a passion for walking in the English countryside, I find much that I relate to in this thought-provoking poem by the American poet, Joseph Stroud.  I like the way the poem moves through mundane travel arrangements until the walker finds a place that feels like "a beginning," a place from which he will begin to "walk the freshness" back into his life.  And then there is a beautiful description of another walker seen in the distance, a solitary figure who is "walking, making his way, working his life, step by step, into grace."  


By Joseph Stroud

                                      How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable
                                      Seem to me all the uses of this world

                                      Take a plane to London.
                               From King's Cross take the direct train to York.
                               Rent a car and drive across the vale to Ripon,
                               then into the dales toward the valley of the Nidd,
                               a narrow road with high stone walls on each side,
                               and soon you'll be on the moors.  There's a pub,
                               The Drovers, where it's warm inside, a tiny room,
                               you can stand at the counter and drink a pint of Old Peculiar.
                               For a moment everything will be all right.  You're back
                               at a beginning.  Soon you'll walk into Yorkshire country,
                               into dells, farms, into blackberry and cloud country.
                               You'll walk for hours.  You'll walk the freshness
                               back into your life.  This is true.  You can do this.
                               Even now, sitting at your desk, worrying, troubled,
                               you can gaze across Middlesmoor to Ramsgill,
                               the copses, the abbeys of slanting light, the fells,
                               you can look down on that figure walking toward Scar House,
                               cheeks flushed, curlews rising in front of him, walking,
                               making his way, working his life, step by step, into grace.

On Moors Between Nine Standards Rigg and Whitsundale

Notes:  Both photos taken on my walk of Wainright's Coast to Coast Path in 2010; Joseph Stroud poem, "Directions," from Below Cold Mountain (Copper Canyon Press, 1998).


  1. I thought the lines in italics were Stroud's and the other 'directions' were yours, George!

    Are you planning another walk into grace?

  2. Hi, BONNIE. No, the entire set of "directions," including the lines in italics, belong to Stroud. That said, they closely echo my own experiences and sentiments. And, yes, I am planning more walks, both abroad and in my own corner of the world. Call it grace or what you will—I find that it is impossible to create it in the mind, but it can sometimes be found unexpectedly by mindfully placing one foot before the other. Though it is a well kept secret, there is stillness to be found in movement.

  3. wonderful pics...were they your's? if so ...gorgeous.

  4. Thanks for the nice comment, Gerry. Yes, unless otherwise attributed, all photos on my site were taken by me.

  5. I was thinking of your coast to coast walk the other day when I wentshopping in Finkle St in Richmond. A shopkeeper told me the path actually went down that very road - something I hadn't realized all the years I've been here.

  6. Had I but known you were there George, I would have come to meet you - you are so very near my home territory. If you come again you absolutely MUST come to tea!

  7. I am taken by those angling rock walls. Gorgeous. -- barbara

  8. That rhythm of walking can synchronize the interior with everything exterior, as you testify here again. The Stroud poem with that extraordinary statement You'll walk the freshness / back into your life is so encouraging! Splendid photos, and pairing.

  9. Thanks, DOMINIC. I think it's time for you to walk the entire C2C. I would love to do it again, and then again and again.

  10. Thanks for the invitation, PAT. You may rest assured that I will take you up on that tea when I return to the area, which I hope to do in the not too distant future. How fortunate you are to live in the middle of such beauty.

    Here's hoping the doctor's visit went well yesterday!

  11. Thanks, BARBARA. I, too, find myself moved by these magnificent stone walls throughout the U.K. They seem timeless, and they always suggest that something fine and well-crafted will always endure, if only in our memories.

  12. Thank you so much, RUTH. I also find great encouragement in the idea that we can walk the freshness back into our lives. That is precisely how I feel about walking. Whether the venue is just beyond my front door or halfway around the world, walking always makes me feel younger, stronger, and more capable of going where I need to go in life.

  13. How simple the poem i and yet so all encompassing. I don’t know Stroud but he would be a wonderful companion on just such a walk.

  14. Glad you liked this poem, FRIKO, and you're so right; this poem is both simple and encompassing. And I agree that Stroud would make a fine walking companion, as would you!

  15. I have printed this and tucked it inside my calendar for repeat readings. And I read it while sitting at my desk dreaming of a long walk. Thanks for sharing, and thanks for your blog. I'm starting to hatch a plan to walk the C2C for my 45th birthday, and I'm finding much inspiration in your blog.

  16. Welcome to Transit Notes, Vive. Glad to know you've found something of value here, and I hope you will return to participate in the conversation.

    By all means, walk the C2C as soon as you can. It's indescribably beautiful, and it was surely one of the highlights of my life. I walked it three years ago at sixty-seven. Since then, I have returned to walk the Hadrian's Wall Path and the Cotswold Way. I also plan to keep up the long-distance walking for as long as I can. As Stroud says in the poem, we can literally walk the freshness back into our lives.

    If you haven't done so, please check out my friend Robert's blog, The Solitary Walker, at Robert is a very experienced long-distance walker whose accounts will provide great inspiration to you.

  17. The photos illustrate Stroud's poem so well. All that green! The vastness of the landscape in the second photo does hint that possibly walking could move a person closer into grace. Both poem and photos have much depth.

  18. Lovely poem, it resonates with me too.

  19. Thanks for the thoughtful comment, BARB. As you can see, I also love this notion of one walking, making one's way step by step, into grace.

  20. Thanks, ROWAN. So glad this poem worked for you. I would have suspected that, of course, knowing how much you love to walk with your dog.