If a man walks in the woods for his love of them half of each day, he is in danger of being regarded as a loafer; but if he spends his whole day as a speculator, shearing off those woods and making earth bald before her time, he is esteemed as an industrious and enterprising citizen. As if a town had no interest in its forests but to cut them down.
— Henry David Thoreau, “Life Without Principle”
Where along the way did we lose ourselves? Was just wandering through the world or in the wild ever something celebrated, honored, and recognized by our greater society?
I walk my dog, Deacon, two to three times a day, usually over a mile each trip. We’re restricted to our neighborhood, because the near-by parks are a bit too filled with smells and squirrels and goose poop for his hyper-aware, high-drive energy. Since we tend to walk in circles up and down the blocks, I’ve started to wonder what my neighbors are thinking…
There that guy goes again.
He must be a little crazy.
What else does he do all day?
It must be some sort of therapy.
What a waste of time.
The actual likelihood is that very few of them, if any, have really even noticed the abundance of our walks. But if they have, is this wandering, or any wandering, something we appreciate enough in today’s fast-paced lives?
These walks have opened Deacon and I up to the rhythms of the bird and animal life (including humans) in our immediate area: the geese flocks on migration … the cats’ hunting grounds … people coming and going from work … song birds feeding and roosting. And since we sometimes walk a few blocks at night, I’m also now more familiar with the phases of the moon, which stars are out, and what the weather pattern is up to. Will there be snow tomorrow?
Yet what is the point of this wandering? Why do either Thoreau or I, and every other walking wanderer in between, care? The answer to that is probably for the individual to decide. But anyone who does have an answer knows the importance of nature connection, of having time to smile and breath and contemplate, of the rejuvenation brought by saying good morning to the day.
In 2014, I hope you discover the importance of wandering for yourself as well.