On a recent walk, I covered several miles a day over the course of a month. The longer I walked, the more I found it was harder to remember the day of the week or month. The time on my watch was no longer so important as the position of the sun or the temperature or the direction or strength of the wind.
A taxi ride of twenty miles at the end of my hike revealed some of the other differences in my way of looking at what lay around me. As the car traveled quickly, covering ten to fifteen walking hours in about thirty minutes, I was disappointed to find the landscape plain and homogenized: I watched green trees, rolling hills, garden plots, houses painted in pastels with tile roofs all pass by in seconds. Inside the vehicle, I discovered the outside habitat to be a parallel universe. The precious details of my walking were replaced by vague impressions.
The tactile engagement with the land had been broken, and I had no reason to appraise climb or descent. There was no effort required, The automobile did everything. There was no reason to be concerned about rain or muddy paths or wet shoes. It did not matter if the wind was cold or hard.
The lesson was too simple, and also too radical: I could not begin to understand the fundamentals of distance and time and place unless I traveled - at least for a while - on foot. And I asked myself how should I walk? How slow was slow enough?
This is Bill Felker with Poor Will’s Almanack. I'll be back again next week with notes for the final week of early summer, In the meantime, of course, take a walk, a slow walk.