Friday, May 08, 2020

Rejuvenative Pleasures of Sauntering

"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, which word is beautifully derived 'from idle people who roved about the country,' in the Middle Ages, and asked charity, under pretense of going a la Sainte Terre, to the Holy Land, till the children exclaimed, 'There goes a Sainte-Terrer,' a Saunterer, a Holy-Lander. They who never go to the Holy Land in their walks, as they pretend, are indeed mere idlers and vagabonds; but they who do go there are saunterers in the good sense, such as I mean. Some, however, would derive the word from sans terre, without land or a home, which, therefore, in the good sense, will mean, having no particular home, but equally at home everywhere. For this is the secret of successful sauntering. He 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 sedulously seeking the shortest course to the sea."

- Henry David Thoreau (1817 - 1862)

Postscript: Little did I know back in November of last year (in this post) that the word "saunter" would come back and haunt me - haunt all of us; unexpectedly, to be sure, and not in a bad way, but mindfully and full of joy. For what better way is there of dealing with today's unrelenting virus-induced stressors than succumbing to the gentle pleasures of Thoreau-ian sauntering? And so, my younger son (having now advanced far beyond his early Polaroid experiments and maturing quite nicely as an budding-artist with a Fujifilm XT-2 in hand) and I have been taking daily saunters to rejuvenate our sequestered souls. The impressionistic image above (which captures the gentle swaying and swirling of reeds of grass in a shallow creek along a footpath near our home in northern VA) may not be a Wagnerian panorama of, say, the Scottish highlands, but it is no less able to depict the ineffable effervescence of our lives. Though I started our saunter in a decidedly dour mood (minus my normal commute time, my "work days" are now effectively 3 hours longer!), it took but a few precious moments immersed in a gentle forest breeze, the soft burbling of water and the glimmer of the day's last sunlight on a tiny reed of grass to put smiles back on our faces. Thank you, Mr. Thoreau, for reminding me of the timeless - and rejuvenative - pleasures of sauntering!

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