Steven Simpson, Associate Professor
Department of Recreation Management and Therapeutic Recreation
2046 Health Science Center   UW-La Crosse La Crosse, WI     54601
(608) 785-8216  or  simpson.stev@uwlax.edu
 
 

Rec 202 Readings from Brady's Bluff

The following excerpts are  from Thoreau’s essay, “Walking, ” and Lin Yutang’s The Importance of Living. "Walking" comes from Thoreau, H. D., 1975, The Selected Works of Thoreau, Boston: Houghton Mifflin.  The Lin citation is Lin, Y.,  1937,  The Importance of Living,  New York: Reynal & Hitchkok.

From Thoreau’s essay “Walking”
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.  The beautiful word saunter has two possible French roots.   One possibility is a reference to idle people who roved about the country in the Middle Ages, asking for charity under the pretense of going to Sainte Terre, the Holy Land.  They came to be known as Sainte-Terrers.  Children would exclaim, “there goes a sainte-terrer.”  A second possible root for the word saunter is sans terre, French for “without land or home” - which when used in the good sense, means having no particular home, but equally at home everywhere.    This is the secret of successful sauntering.  He or she who sits still in a  house all the time may be the greatest vagrant of all; but the saunterer, in the good sense, is no more vagrant than the meandering river, which is all the while diligently seeking the shortest course to the sea. (Walking, 660)

From Thoreau’s essay “Walking”
Of the two roots to the word saunter, I prefer the Sainte terre derivation.  Every good walk is a sort of crusade, called for by the preacher within us, to go forth and reclaim the Holy Land from the infidels.  The walkers of today are, of course, very faint-hearted crusaders.  Our expeditions are but tours, and we come round again at evening to the old hearth-side from which we set out.  Half the walk is but retracing our steps.  We should really go forth on a walk in the spirit of undying adventure, never to return - if you are ready to leave father and mother, and brother and sister, and spouse and child and friends, and never see them again - if you have paid your debts, and made your will, and settled all your affairs, and are totally free, then you are ready for a walk.  (Walking, 660)

From Thoreau’s essay “Walking”
When we walk, we feel that perhaps we are the only ones who practice this noble art.  This is true even though, if their own assertions are to be believed, most of our townspeople are willing to walk sometimes -  still they do not.   Walking costs no money, and there is no amount wealth that can buy the necessary leisure, freedom, and independence which are the capital in this profession.  It comes only from the grace of God.  Some of my townsmen, it is true, can remember and have described to me some walks which they took ten years ago, in which they were so blessed as to lose themselves for half an hour in the woods, but I know very well that they have confined themselves to the highway ever since.  No doubt they were elevated for a moment, but it is now only a distant remembrance.  When sometimes I reminded that the office workers and shopkeepers stay in their shops not only all morning, but all afternoon too, sitting at their desks, so many of them - as if legs were made to sit upon, and not to walk on - I think that they deserve some credit for not having all committed suicide long ago.  (Walking, 661)
 
From Thoreau’s essay “Walking”
Walking has nothing to do with getting exercise, unless the exercise is that of the mind.  You must walk like a camel, which is said to be the only beast which ruminates when walking.  I am alarmed when it happens that I have walked a mile into the woods bodily, without getting there in spirit.  In my afternoon walk I want to forget all my morning occupations and my obligations to society.  But it sometimes happens that I cannot easily shake off the village.  The thought of some work will run in my head and I am not where my body is - I am wasting my senses.  What business have I in the woods, if I am thinking of something out of the woods?  (Walking, 662-63)
 

From Thoreau’s essay “Walking”
Some do not walk at all; others walk only on highways; a few walk across lots.  Roads are for horses and men of business.  I do not travel on them much, because I am not in a hurry to get to any tavern or grocery or livery stable or depot to which they lead.  Roads are for the domestic in us.  I love to see the domestic animals reassert their native rights - any evidence that they have not wholly lost their original wild habits and vigor; as when my neighbor’s cow breaks out of her pasture early in the spring and boldly swims the river.  She then is the buffalo crossing the Mississippi, and she reclaims some of the dignity that taming has seeped away. I rejoice that horse and steers have to be broken before they can be made the slaves of humanity, and that humans themselves have some wild oats still left to sow before they become submissive members of society.  Undoubtedly, all people are not equally fit subjects for civilization; and because the majority, like dogs and sheep, are tame by inherited disposition, this is no reason why the others should have their natures broken that they may be reduced to the same level.  (Walking 665, 678-79)
 

From Lin Yutang’s The Importance of Living.
The true mode of travel should be travel to become lost and unknown.  More poetically, we may describe it as travel to forget.  Everyone is quite respectable in their home town, no matter what the higher social circles think of them.  They are tied by a set of conventions, rules, habits, and duties.  A true traveler is always a vagabond, with joys, temptations and sense of adventure of the vagabond.  Either travel is vagabonding or it is no travel at all.  The essence of travel is to have no duties, no fixed hours, no mail, no inquisitive neighbors, no receiving delegations, and no destination.  A good traveler is one who does not know where he or she is going to, and the perfect traveler does not know where he or she came from.  331
 

From Lin Yutang’s The Importance of Living.
The spirit of vagabondage makes it possible for people to get closer to Nature.  Travelers of this kind will therefore insist on going where there are the fewest people and one can have some sort of real solitude and communion with Nature.  Travelers of this sort, therefore, do not in their preparation for journeys go into a department store and take a lot of time to select the perfect bathing suit.  These travelers travel to see nothing and to see nobody, but  the squirrels and muskrats and woodchucks and clouds and trees.  There is all the difference between seeing things and seeing nothing.  Many travelers who see things really see nothing, and many who see nothing see a great deal.  I am always amused at hearing of an author going to a foreign country to “get material for his new book,” as if he had exhausted all there was to see in his own town or country.  332-334

 
From Lin Yutang’s The Importance of Living.
A friend of mine described for me how she went with friends to a hill in the neighborhood specifically in order to see nothing.  It was a misty day in the morning, and as they went up, the mist became heavier and heavier.  One could hear the soft beat of drops of moisture on the leaves of grass.  There was nothing to be seen but fog.  My friend was discouraged, but her companions said,” But you must come along; there’s a wonderful sight on top.”   She went up with them and after a while saw an ugly rock in the distance enveloped by the clouds, which had been heralded as a great sight.  “What is there?” she asked.  “That is the inverted lotus,” her companions replied.  Somewhat mortified, she was ready to go down.  “But there is a still more wonderful sight on top,” they said.  Her dress was already half damp with moisture, but she had no strength to resist their coaxing, so she went on with them.  Finally they reached the summit.  All about them was an expanse of mists and fogs, with the outline of distant hills barely visible on the horizon. “But there is noting to see here,” my friend protested.  “that is exactly the point.  We come up to see nothing,” her companions replied.  333-34.