My Regular Walk

I have to confess that I have no regular walk.

I do walk, of course, almost everywhere, so there are many places where I walk regularly, paths that connect my house to the local farmer’s market, to the little grocery store down the street, to my church a few blocks in the other direction, to the several parks that distract my children most mornings. and to the many other places that I inhabit frequently. None of these constitute a regular walk, however, not in the sense that I have found to be so important to others over the years.

For example, my favourite books as a child were C. S. Lewis’ Narnian books, and when I had exhausted them, I went looking for everything else that Lewis had written.  I started reading vast quantities of literary criticism, theology, and apologetics, all well before I could know what any of it might actually mean.  In the midst of all this, I also read Lewis’ autobiography, Surprised by Joy, and a volume of his collected letters.  In both of these books, he talks about his regular walks.  Often taken with others for company, these walks did not necessarily have a set route, and they rarely had a destination as such.  Their purpose was not to arrive anywhere in particular, but to provide the opportunity for thinking and for conversation.  They were less exercise or transportation than a unique space where the life of the mind could be practiced.

Though this was the first time I had heard of walking in such a way, I have found similar practices among many others of the authors whom I enjoy and respect, and my imagination has joined these figures together into some sort of ideal figure of the walker: part G. K Chesterton, idly slashing at trees with his swordstick; part George Grant, finding religious epiphany while passing through a farm gate; part Ernest Hemingway, tramping country roads and forests; part Hugh Latimer, discussing theology while climbing Heretics’ Hill; and, most recently, part Henry Koch, collecting seeds from the trees along his path.  The regular walk, as practiced by this ideal walker, becomes a kind of intellectual and spiritual discipline, a kind of devotion.

Certain aspects of this walking do come to me naturally.  I have no trouble undertaking a walk without any particular destination in mind, and my walking is not often tempted by anything resembling urgency.  I do not jog.  I do not stride.  I do not hike.  I hardly even walk.  I amble.  I stroll.  I saunter.  I ramble.  I perambulate.  Yet, I do not walk in this way as a regularity, as a part of how I am.  I do it only on occasion, usually at someone else’s suggestion.  Though my wife has something like a regular walk in this sense, I do not.  This is my confession, and it is a confession, I think, that is a symptom of my larger discomfort with a certain kind of reflection and meditation and solitude.  I am not one to make resolutions, but I feel the need for a regular walk, to be regularly apart and reflective, to recapitulate the discipline of the walkers who have preceded me.  I desire this devotion as my own.

1 comment
  1. mum said:

    Having discovered walking as a form of meditation about a decade ago, I was struck by how difficult it was for me to accept without judgement my need to be in motion for “success” in the practice of meditation. After all, isn’t mediation supposed to be stillness and silence and emptying oneself? Then, when I came across the theories of learning styles it began to make sense to me. I am a kinetic and visual learner primarily so it makes sense to me that my devotional life and spiritual practice would also be most meaningful when I absorb through my eyes and the motion of my body whatever the “path” might make known as I walk it… a way of being silent and still and empty, waiting for the filling.

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