Monday, February 23, 2009

On the Trail

Because I’m always on the lookout for new ways to avoid work, I decided to kill part of the day walking a trail I had never tried before. It turned out to be a beautiful way to procrastinate. The landscape was so gorgeous—a twisting stream, a few hills, snowy woods, a fox—that it was almost ridiculous. I mean, who needs that much beauty?

I’ve read that Thoreau tried to walk four hours each day. He wrote that as soon as he began to move his legs, his thoughts would start to flow. I guess I know that feeling, but I’m more skeptical about my walk-generated thoughts. As long as I’m walking it’s possible to believe that I’m having all kinds of brilliant brainstorms, but by the time I get back home and put them down on paper they’ve usually stopped looking so brilliant. Walking and self-delusion must be connected, somehow.

It's not always easy walking in my neighborhood, partly because my neighbors are too neighborly. They pull alongside me in their cars and ask me if I want a lift. I have to explain that I want to walk, but thanks anyway. The assumption, I guess, is that if you're walking something must be wrong--you must have forgotten to check your gas gauge or something.

But on the trail it was all quiet. I stopped once and could hear nothing but a few birds and some ice shifting in the stream. I had to clap a few times, loudly, just to break the silence. The echo of it scared off a bird or two, and I got on my way, just so I could feel I was getting somewhere.


  1. Re: Thoreau's four hours per day. Acclaimed pedestrian Edward Payson Weston in 1867 walked from Portland, Maine to Chicago. 1326 miles in 25 days. No walking on Sundays.

  2. Take that, Henry David. And thank you for checking in, dj.

  3. I agree about thinking and walking, both that walking seems to generate new ideas and also that those ideas are not necessarily as good as they seem on the walk. But I do find walking useful in breaking out of thought patterns that aren't going anywhere. If I'm stuck on something I'm writing, walking often helps. The ideas I come up with may not be any good, but at least they're new ideas. And often they help shake loose something better once I get back to the keyboard.

  4. The great thing about not being a writer is that one is never required to have an original thought, brilliant or otherwise. Makes it OK that the only walking I do with any frequency is the ten feet from laundry room dryer to guest room bed, home to our little corner of the wild: Clean Clothes Mountain.