You know I’ve had enough of this trouble
following me high and low.
Now it can go.”
~ The Innocence Mission, Walking Around
As with most weekday mornings en route to work, the postmaster and I exchanged greetings. “How’s it going,” I asked. This time, Jim replied with “I’d complain, but I won’t.” My immediate response was, “we each have a place to go.” A bit of work is a slice of sustenance. Having a place to go draws implications beyond the utilitarian trudge. As one’s work is a destination, so is a walk. Some people tell me going for a walk with no purpose is pointless. I must differ; indeed a meaningless stroll has great purpose. Less is more. From carefree jacketless jaunts to heavily-equipped winter expeditions, I remain deeply grateful for my mobility. Rather than appearing as obstacles, weather and terrain provide ingredients for the adventure. The paths of my upbringing wove through large, multidimensional cities. As a child, my grandmother and I would promener (go walking) together through our Arrondissement (the 17th); she would soften day-old bread with water for us to break off morsels to feed the birds.
Going for a walk, of any length, is a break out of the box. A taking to a trail away from the rutted roads of repeated routine. A means of escape? Perhaps; but if so, this is the necessary kind to re-engage the marches of time. A good walk comprises motion to slow things down. Just as going out with a camera to create a sense of a scene that draws your attention. An observation stops the pace, changes vantage point, and preserves an image. Teaching photo students, I’ll often say, “be a tourist in your own town.” Notice places familiar and changed. Turning corners and traversing roadways, thoughts will change- even opinions. As the mind diverts, what is cherished comes to the fore. Simmering the questions, strolls test and revise perspective. Blending the mind’s ingredients, an outdoor walk resembles the randomness of dreams. Notice how birds glide from tree to tree.
With paces preferring manageable paths, balance comes to mind. Striding and striving, often forcing matters becomes counterproductive. To strive, in this context, is to unnecessarily struggle and overattempt. To walk is to entertain patience. Aperch on a bench, amidst a city thoroughfare, the elements remind me to not be irritated by things removed from my control. Excessive striving is no friend of a good effort. We get accustomed to being so compelled as to force every detail into shape- and then to vigilantly guard these interests. How about an endeavor not to excessively exert? “Be paced, poised, and avoid burnout,” I mused while waiting to cross a street. Varying views change frames of mind.
There is middle ground between leaving things to be as they are (or as they develop), and constantly looking to adapt them (even compulsively). The latter viewpoint fixates upon the next thing. I’d be the last to advocate complacency; at the same time there is a worthwhile awakening in the consideration that one cannot get blood from a turnip. The preferable path sidesteps resignation, yet knows repose. The ancient gem, “study to be quiet,” originated in Paul’s criticism of materialistic and empire-building emphases among elites of ancient Greek society.
“Our dignity is tied to our ability to be thinking beings,” wrote Pascal. For me, this translates as the capability of conscientiousness. To think for oneself is to do so unabashedly- without façade. Technology and tools to be as gladly used as put away, giving priority to simplicity. Getting outside, away from the “virtual,” encourages continuation of cultivating skills that require thought and dexterity. When it can be done, easing the pace opens a view to observe treasures immediately at hand- and the trove may be that very midst itself.