Tuesday, October 9, 2012
I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art of Walking, that is, of taking walks, - who had a genius, so to speak for sauntering: which word is beautifully derived from "idle people who roved about the country, in the Middle Ages, and asked charity, under pretense of going à la Terre Sainte," to the Holy Land, till the children exclaimed, "There goes a Sainte-Terrer," a Saunterer, a Holy-Lander.
So it's the medieval children (and I think of sauntering as a child-like way to walk) who provide the language for the walking Thoreau wants to theorize. Well, he was a teacher, when he wasn't a handyman or living at Walden far from the madding crowd - but I still bet he didn't take kids on walks. I think that Iris is asking her question only now because she's old enough to see the horizon and know we won't cross it, know that this is a matter of hours away and then a return home. I think that when they're smaller, walks for the kids were these huge adventures and they were always a little surprised to return home. Like Mandeville's traveler who circles the globe and can't understand the language of the people of his homeland because it's inconceivable that he's made it all the way around the world. Eleanor became fascinated by the idea of a "one-way ticket around the world" - I don't know if it's a conundrum or an oxymoron, but I love thinking of it, too.
Sometimes you know you're setting out only to come home at the end, and sometimes you know you're setting out not to, and sometimes you just don't know. There are itineraries and there are trajectories. I think of Mandeville's traveler, and Thoreau, and my beloved friend David in France, and Mac in India, and Iris's restlessness to see something new, and Oliver's yearning for all the familiars of France. I think of the medieval word "wander" and the modern one, "wanderlust;" of medieval walkers, of (help from Tim Morton here) the possibility of an aesthetic response to a walk in the Middle Ages. And I realize that the scale and scope of a walk are indefinitely negotiable.
I often think of blogging as being one of a company of people walking through the woods: you follow your own path, but you're frequently calling out to the others, rushing over to see what they found, crossing paths. There are medieval bloggers going off the beaten path in wondrous ways these days: Eileen Joy's resignation from the university (this incredible piece will make the ground shift beneath your feet), whose beautiful writing and powerful wit are the stuff of what could surely be the first academic road movie ever. Asa Mittman and Shyama Rajendran starting the blog fumblr (check it out!), in which contributors can share the walk of the road (best) not taken. I love the trust in these departures, in these walks: in each other, in what awaits, in that what we might share will bring us further knowledge and wonder. And (to close by finally addressing the image above though, truly, fire will soon claim its own post), the fires we gather around along the way for warmth and stories and respite.