Walk Like A Camel Into the Wilderness

12 06 2011

They make me smile.

When I look at my tattered old trainers and realise just how many kilometers I’ve walked in them, I feel a small jab of joy.

I like to walk everywhere. Up the stairs, down the stairs, to the market, around my room…It gives me time to think and to clear my mind, but also to gain new sources of stimulus. I don’t think I can maintain my sanity if I stayed holed up in my room all day long without walking.

So imagine my surprise when I came across Thoreau’s  essay, Walking. In him I found an eloquent description of what it means to Walk (with a capital W) that reflected precisely what I felt about walking. This is what he said:

  • Walking is “a noble art“.
  • “I cannot preserve my health and spirits unless I spend four hours a day at least… sauntering… absoutely free from all wordly engagements.”
  • On people who sit indoors all day long: “I think that they deserve some credit for not having all committed suicide long ago. “
  • If he has not walked by late afternoon, Thoreau feels “as if I had committed some sin to be atoned for”
  • And my favourite: you must walk like a camel which is said to be the only beast which ruminates when walking. When a traveller asked Wordsworth’s (10) servant to show him her master’s study, she answered “Here is his library, but his study is out of doors.”

What’s most important, though, is this:

in Wilderness is the preservation of the World.

I think what Thoreau was trying to convey was our dependence on nature. Nature holds the key to the world and it is through walking that we discover more about it. At the same time, I don’t think ‘Wilderness’ should be confined to forests, mountains, big fields and the like.

Wilderness is all around us – the side alleys at the heart of a city, the quiet little lane out in the suburbs. Wilderness is also inside us – parts of ourselves that we have yet to fully understand. I believe that walking will bring us all closer to the wilderness around us and inside us.

Walking is physical, spiritual, intellectual – and more.

Some useful links:

  1. Thoreau’s Walking
  2. The Definitive Guide to Walking

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