We are running. In spite of our better instincts, we are racing, hurtling, speeding through these last days of 2011. Why? “Gotta get this snow to the arctic.” “Gotta get these pineapples to Hawaii.” The jokes around here are meant to mock our hastiness. Around here, we try to catch each other in mid-dash. It works for about five minutes, then we’re off again.
As if to remind us of a different temporal zone, there is the tall young man who walks superbly slowly past our house every morning. (“Every path, every street in the world is your walking meditation path,” says Thich Nhat Hanh.) What is that tall young man not doing? Where is he not going?
#1. A Picture.
“How are we all so brave as to take step after step? Day after day? How are we so optimistic, so careful not to trip and yet do trip, and then say O.K.”
― Maira Kalman, The Principles of Uncertainty
#2. A Book.
Julius, the narrator of Open City, is a devoted stroller. He traverses New York City from end to end, drawing out stories and histories of the city. He is one of the loneliest wanderers you will ever encounter and yet one of the most arresting. I was smitten from the very first line (“And so when I began to go on evening walks last fall, I found Morningside Heights an easy place from which to set out into the city.”) I dare anyone not to be similarly allured by Cole’s meandering mind, which moves dexterously from discussing art to bedbugs to Ground Zero. With the exception of W.G. Sebald, I have rarely encountered a writer who embraces narrative openness to such a brave extent. Long live aimless walking and sprawling storytelling. Goals and destinations are the enemy of adventure. They blinker us from other possibilities that arise. (Thank you D.C. for recommending it.)
#3. A Song.