GNL number 73

a report of doings at meeting #73, Sunday, June 9, 2013
including liturgical items, major themes, and other odds and ends

INVOCATION

Walking is also an ambulation of the mind. —Gretel Ehrlich

Walking articulates both physical and mental freedom.
Many people nowadays live in a series of interiors…disconnected from each other. On foot everything stays connected.
One lives in the whole world rather than in the interiors built up against it.
—Rebecca Solnit, in Wanderlust: a History of Walking


THEME

First, Nancy reported on a message from our friend Adair suggesting a get-together when she’s in town the 21st (which several of us will indeed do); then Sue opened today’s “formal” conversation on Walking/Wandering/Wondering. She’s now reading Rebecca Solnit’s book quoted above, and read two more good ones from this, as well as several others (for which see Afterwords). She spoke of two other great walkers: Peace Pilgrim, whose book described her 28 years of walking across America with no money or possessions but the clothes on her back, to talk with and listen to people about peace; and of course our dear Jack Daniels, another lover of peace, who also wrote a beautiful book about his walks along Brimstone Creek.

On her walking turn, Ann covered a lot of ground too, from a Tolkien quote to many ways of moving, especially meandering, and some history on “cakewalking”. (Which was apparently an Afro-American spoof of formal white dancing. Whites didn’t get it and that must have given blacks some pleasure). Ann’s a lover of nature, who affirmed the beauties of walking in the rain as well as sunshine, and in fact she could really appreciate being able to walk anytime at all, since for years knee problems have often made it difficult for her. See AW for her notes and quotes.

Anna described her recent habit, put off by winter and some spring weather, of walking a 15-minute loop nearby 1 to 3 times a day. She said she “gimps along”, not for speed but ambling, enjoying the air and seeing and moving through nature’s scenery—the same route, yet new each time. She recalled walking in New York City where she grew up, but said she was not interested in walking in cities any more. She added she’s thinking of looking for a place in town where she could walk to stores and to visit friends, explaining that her car had recently died, and she doesn’t think she’ll replace it.

Vijaya’s sister Indira, visiting her for most of the summer, spoke of life in the city in India that is her home. She said in the old days, everybody walked all the time on their errands, but now, like here, most people are driving everywhere, as they’re so often in a hurry to get places in their busy, busy lives. Though she is very aware of this, she said her husband is the one, more than she, who is a devoted walker, and who has become very fit because of it.

Gail had done both recollection and research, first fondly remembering walks with her sister, who’s quite a birdwatcher, and walking the 15 miles to Cooperstown in preparation for hiking she would later be doing in Alaska. Researching about “wondering”, she thought of her inquisitive mom, and then like mom also checked into a book on walking by John Baxter, from which she read quotes. One of these was by Charles Gros, and googling him took her wondering a-wander back to an old French king. Fun. All (including a perfect 6-wordy)reported in Afterwords.

Cynthia also recalled happy walking, especially out in the beautiful natural world of their Camp in Blenheim, where she’s always on the lookout for the “invisible birds” she only hears, secretive scarlet tanagers that seem to only sing teasingly from cover. Which made some of us remember our magical meeting back in August of 2007 (only COS’ 2nd) at the Wilsons’ Camp, where one of many highlights was a glimpse of that flirty red bird. Cynthia, who has always had foot problems but still walks many errands around town, aspires to do more walking.

Nancy remembered pleasures of 20+ years of walking in Cobleskill, many light-bringing encounters. Some ended up in a book for her grandkids, Wild Animals of Cobleskill, from which she told about a luna moth’s resurrection, 3 peeking fox children, and a flying squirrel. More recently, walking by the Jay Apts. pond on a nice day, she was delighted to see in the new Daycare’s yard 4 very quiet lumpy sleeping bags and their guardian. And the next day a different surprise closeby: a mallard duck couple unusually close to the Apts. who froze as N got close and Mr. said to Mrs. something like Don’t move, I don’t trust her, and Mrs. said something like O stop, she’s just an old lady with a loud jacket, and N went by smiling to herself. N&Q in AW.

Our hostess Vijaya has two thriving garden spaces out back—her immediate back yard with Jack’s St. Francis tucked into the greenery, and the also verdant park-like space around the parking lot to the north; the first she made for herself, the second for the community (and she can walk from one to the other). She said the “wandering” part of this topic had also reminded her of years ago when her 5 year old son’s teacher spoke of his wandering mind; V had defended him as just bored, and indeed he grew up to earn his college degree and become a successful adult.

Since Elliott’s fast in solidarity with the hunger-striking prisoners of Guantanamo Bay prison was much in our minds today, we will forward our offering to witnesstorture.org.


BENEDICTION

The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green earth in the present moment, to appreciate the peace and beauty that are available now.
—Thich Nhat Hanh

Lovely days don’t come to you, you should walk to them.
—Rumi


NEXT TIME

Sunday, July 14, 2013 (1030), at Nancy’s house on North Street, Cobleskill. The topic is BOOKS (wherever that takes you: favorites, current reading, for or against, etal). Extra added attraction: Nancy will have dragged out the several crates of COS books, for you to browse, borrow, steal, own, pass along. Note: This date will be confirmed or changed in a separate email.


AFTERWORDS

from Sue:

  • “Thinking is generally thought of as doing nothing in a production-oriented culture, and doing nothing is hard to do. It’s best done by disguising it as doing something and the something closest to doing nothing is walking. Walking itself is the intentional act closest to the unwilled rhythms of the body, to breathing and the beating of the heart. It strikes a delicate balance between working and idling, being and doing. It is a bodily labor that produces nothing but thoughts, experiences, arrivals.” Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking, Viking, 2000, p. 5
  • “Walking returns the body to its original limits again, to something supple, sensitive, and vulnerable, but walking itself extends into the world as do those tools that augment the body…..Walking shares with making and working that crucial element of engagement of the body and the mind with the world, of knowing the world through the body and the body through the world.” Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking, Viking, 2000, p. 29
  • “All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.” Friedrich Nietzsche
  • “The longest journey begins with a single step.” Lao Tsu
  • “No matter how fast you travel, life walks.” Vectors: 56 Aphorisms And Ten-Second Essays, James Richardson.
  • “Wandering re-establishes the original harmony which once existed between man and the universe.” Anatole France
    “Remember that breath walking – as with any meditation technique – should not be pursued with a grim determination to ‘get it right.’ The point is to cultivate openness, relaxation and awareness, which can include awareness of your undisciplined, wandering mind.” Andrew Weil
  • “By experience we find out a short way by a long wandering.” VVRoger Ascham
  • Other books:
    • Peace Pilgrim: Her Life and Work in Her Own Words, Ocean Tree Books, 1991
    • Across Brimstone Creek: Exploring Nature in a Small Patch of Schoharie County by Jack Daniels, T-J Press, 2000
    • (Sue recommended as well a book by NY Times health writer Gretchen Reynolds, The First 20 Minutes, about the special effectiveness of exercise in the morning.)

from Ann:

  • Not all those who wander are lost.
    Fellowship of the Ring, by Tolkien
  • Meander: to slowly move in a situation of similar attitude. A meandering stream, water seeking its own level in a flat terrain.
  • Walking is so much, or so little, if you can’t do it. Days when my knee is impossibly painful to bend means I can’t walk but a few paces without the knee “locking up”, and then I try to sit and I literally cannot bend my knee without extreme pain. And then, for whatever reason, reasons, the knee is fine, no pain while walking or playing pickleball or working in the garden.
  • Walk, skip, jump, slide, sidle, run, twirl, spin, stroll, sashay.
  • Walks of life.
  • Paths are walks.
  • Cake walk?

from Gail:

Wonder. N. 1.a. One that arouses awe, surprise, or admiration; marvel. B. A feeling thus aroused. 2. A feeling of puzzlement or doubt. V. 1. To have a feeling of awe or admiration; marvel. 2. To be filled with curiosity or doubt. 3. To be inquisitive or in doubt about.

From the book The Most Beautiful Walk in the World: A Pedestrian in Paris. By John Baxter:

To Walk the Walk

Nobody has yet found a better way to travel slowly than to walk. It requires two legs; nothing more. Want to go faster? Don’t bother walking—-roll, slide or fly: don’t walk. But once you are walking, it’s not performance that counts but the intensity of the sky, the splendor of the landscape. Walking is not a sport.
—–Charles Gros, Walking, A Philosophy

Walking Backwards for Christmas

I’m walking backwards for Christmas
Across the Irish Sea,
I’m walking backwards for Christmas,
It’s the only thing for me.

I’ve tried walking sideways,
And walking to the front,
But people just look at me,
And say it’s a publicity stunt.

—–Spike Milligan, 1956

six-wordy: Everybody needs to Wonder, Wander, Walk.

Looking up Charles Gros to find Walking, A Philosophy, I found Charles the Fat (Charles le Gros), and wondered if this is where we got the term gross for unpleasant things. (Was Charles III, Carolingian Emperor 881-888.) And then this, in wandering on: Charles the Fat is a 12th century concoction. Charles’ actual girth is unknown.

from Nancy:

First Thought
“Woody Guthrie’s This Land is Your Land” (excerpt)

As I was walking that ribbon of highway,
I saw above me that endless skyway,
I saw below me that golden valley,
This land was made for you and me.
This land is your land, this land is my land,
From California to the NY island
From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Steam waters
This land is made for you and me.

As I went walking, I saw a sign there,
And on the sign it said “No Trespassing”
But on the other side it didn’t say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.
This land is your land, this land is my land,
From California to the NY island
From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Steam waters
This land is made for you and me.

Some quotes

  • Walking is the great adventure, the first meditation, a practice of heartiness and soul primary to humankind.
    —Gary Snyder
  • My father considered a walk among the mountains as the equivalent of church-going.
    —Aldous Huxley
  • ….the beauty is in the walking—-we are betrayed by destinations.
    —Gwyn Thomas
  • Meandering leads to perfection.
    —Lao Tsu

And some notes

Most though, remembered walks of my own, where the wonders of the world came up to greet me, made me smile, even laugh, or even inspired songs. Can think of 3 or 4 that happened that way, some kind of serious, but there was one, simple, corny happy little ditty:

“Sunshine, Shine on Me”

Sunshine, shine on me/ Warm and soften me.
Sunshine, shine on me/Shine on me, sweet sun.

Breeze, blow, blow on me/Bend and tickle me.
Breeze, blow, blow on me/ Blow on me, sweet breeze.

Raindrops, wet my skin/Wake this seed within,
Raindrops, please waken me/ Waken me, sweet rain.

Birds, come sing to me/And teach my ears to see.
Birds, please sing to me/Sing to me, sweet birds.

I’m walking home today/Walking is home today,
I’m walking home today/Walk me home, sweet day.

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1 Comment

  1. Donna Veeder said,

    July 20, 2013 at 11:30 am

    Nice one! I am not a walker much. I have tender feet now. Used to walk on the farm. In China everyone waked everywhere in 1986 and distances were measured in the time it took to walk there. Now they all drive and pollute the air. And they eat our food and grow fat. Then everyone was in great shape!

    I had to walk when we had to bring our dog Travis home from Van Hornesville because he had gotten arthritis in his spine and the folks at school were afraid he might bite a child if one touched his tender back. He had never bitten anyone. After the twins went away to college he moved in with folks across the road from school. They loved him and asked if he could stay. We said yes. We knew he was lonely. He loved kids. It was sad to have to keep him in when he came home. So, I took him for a long walk every day. We walked down Creamer’s Corner’s Rd as far as I could go. We did it in all weather. He was the one who helped me to heal from my hip replacement on those walks. Stretched out all my muscles. I do not walk now. I should. I know it is good for the body and the soul. I saw one scarlet Tanager in all the time we lived on the farm, 50 years.

    I also walked when the twins were tiny and I took them out in the spring in their double stroller down Travis Rd. I was lonely then, for adult companionship. I also hoped people would stop and say hello and admire the beautiful twins. Today, July 7, is their 48th birthday! Seems impossible it was so long ago.

    I met Indira and Vijaya at the Arts Center not long ago. I went to look and they sold me four items! I really had only intended to look. I bought a beautiful silvery stole and two little lavender filled pillows for the twins’ birthday. It was good to meet these ladies, having heard of them for a long time from these letters.


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