Stepping into the Wild

Daybreak in the Devon Hills

Daybreak 1

In her fine book Wanderlust: A History of Walking, Rebecca Solnit writes:

"These linked paths and roads form a circuit of about six miles that I began hiking ten years ago to ward off my angst during a difficult year. I kept coming back to this route for respite from my work and for my work too, because thinking is generally thought of as doing nothing in a production-oriented culture, and doing nothing is hard to do. It is best done as disguising it as something, and the something closest to nothing is walking. Walking itself is the intentional act closest to the unwilled rhythms of the body, to breathing and the beating of the heart. It strikes a delicate balance between working and idling, being and doing. It is a bodily labor that produces nothing but thoughts, experiences, arrivals."

Daybreak 2

"Walking, ideally, is a state in which mind, the body, and the world are aligned, as though they were three characters finally in conversation together, three notes suddenly making a chord. Walking allows us to be in our bodies and in the world without being made busy by them. It leaves us free to think without being wholly lost in our thoughts."

Daybreak 3

Daybreak 4

"The rhythm of walking generates a kind of rhythm of thinking, and the passage through a landscape echoes or simulates the passage through a series of thoughts. This creates an odd consenance between internal and external passage, one that suggests that the mind is also a landscape of sorts and that walking is one way to traverse it. A new thought often seems like a feature of the landscape that was there all along, as thought thinking were traveling rather than making. And so one aspect of the history of walking is the history of thinking made concrete -- for the motions of the mind cannot be traced, but those of the feet can.

"Walking can also be imagined as a visual activity, every walk a tour leisurely enough both to see and think over the sights, to assimilate the new into the known. Perhaps this is where walking's peculiar utility for thinkers comes from. The surprises, liberations, and clarifications of travel can sometimes be garnered by going around the block as well as going around the world, and walking travels both near and far.

"Or perhaps walking should be called movement, not travel, for one can walk in circles or travel around the world immobilized in a seat, and a certain kind of wanderlust can only be assuaged by the acts of the body itself in motion, not the motion of the car, boat, or plane. It is the movement as well as the sights going by that seems to make things happen in the mind, and this is what makes walking ambiguous and endlessly fertile: it is both means and end, travel and destination."

Daybreak 5

Poet & essayist Gary Snyder adds:

"Walking is the great adventure, the first meditation, a practice of heartiness and soul primary to humankind.  Walking is the exact balance between spirit and humility."

And so it is, on this hushed moment at dawn on Natttadon Hill.

Daybreak 6

Daybreak 7Words: The quotes above are from Wanderlust by Rebecca Solnit (Penguin, 2001) and Practice of the Wild: Essays by Gary Snyder (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1990); all rights reserved by the authors. Both books are highly recommended. Pictures: Nattadon and Meldon Hills after the rain, everything glistening.