I go out walking


Rebecca Solnit, in her book-length consideration of walking called Wanderlust, cites Edmund Husserl’s description of walking. She writes, “The body, he said, is our experience of what is always here, and the body in motion experiences the unity of all its parts as the continuous ‘here’ that moves toward and through the various ‘theres.’ That is to say, it is the body that moves but the world that changes….” I walk a lot, and am grateful for the ease of my body’s functioning in this task (as opposed to, for example, running, which I also do but hate). I do tend to experience a kind of balance, eventually, between my sense of self and sense of the world, such that neither asserts, rather I am in and of the world and the world is me, and we are passing. I don’t meditate well in sitting pose, but when I walk, my mind settles on some annoying song fragment or a stupid phrase and I note things in passing and then let them go, I imagine conversations then let them go. When I arrive at the end of the walk I sometimes wonder what I thought about all that time. I often have no idea, or am still chanting the song fragment like some kind of demented mantra. Thoreau wrote, “…[A]s we plodded along the dusty roads…all thought indeed stopped, thinking broke down, or proceeded only passively in a sort of rhythmical cadence of the confused material of thought, and we found ourselves mechanically repeating some verse of the Robin Hood ballads.” You said it, bro. What does this have to do with writing? Wordsworth’s walking defined his work. Rilke said that he was walking the ramparts of Duino Castle when the first of the elegies came as a voice calling to him. I need to find me some ramparts. I always think I’ll figure something out while I’m walking, but in fact it’s sort of an antidote to thinking. It’s sometimes when walking that problems in poems resolve themselves, or a first line appears, or a plot point rises. But these things happen without effort and unpredictably. And I must hope that the brilliance that occurs during the walk sticks around long enough to find its way to paper. If not. Well, I guess I’ll go out walking.

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