The comedian Steven Wright said, "everywhere is walking distance if you have the time." The line makes me smile, but it makes me wistful too. If only I had the time.
Walking folds the walker into the pace of the world, while providing respite from the cares attached to our home or workplace. Baudelaire used the word "flaneur" to describe the walking explorer: "For the perfect flâneur, for the passionate spectator, it is an immense joy to set up house in the heart of the multitude, amid the ebb and flow of movement, in the midst of the fugitive and the infinite. To be away from home and yet to feel oneself everywhere at home; to see the world, to be at the centre of the world, and yet to remain hidden from the world."
If you're hankering for a long walk but have no time, here are some titles to try, and a longer list, to boot. :-)
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is the story of a man plagued by the sense that he has made nothing of his life. One day he receives a letter from an old friend who is dying, thanking him for a past kindness. Harold writes a letter of condolence, but when he goes to mail it, he's struck with the sense that he must deliver the letter by hand. And so he sets off on a journey of several hundred miles, with only the clothes on his back. As he walks he reflects on the events that shaped his life.
Walking memoirs abound, with a resurrgence tied to Cheryl Strayed's Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. But don't miss the earlier A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson. Relax into the rhytm of Robert Macfarlane's The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot, by Robert Macfarlane details the author's effort to become more intimately acquainted with his country by starting at his home in Cambridge, England and following the old roads and ancient tracks that crisscross his country. I'm looking forward in particular to Lauren Elkin’s Flâneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice, and London for a female perspective on Baudelaire's phenomenon.
Happy reading, and happy trails.