Author Rebecca Solnit, whose book Paleontologists, anthropologists, and anatomists have launched a passionate and often partisan argument over when and why the ancestral ape got up on its hind legs and walked so long that its body became our upright, two-legged, striding body.
They were the philosophers of walking I had been looking for, speculating endlessly about what each bodily shape says about function and about how those forms and functions eventually added up to our humanity — though what that humanity consists of is equally debatable.
Wisps of smoke hang above small houses in the cool morning air; here and there, larch needles turn the color of pumpkins.
It’s then that I’m reminded of my first year in the mountains, new, fresh from college, walking along what seemed to me to be a simple country road. ” Because it was inconceivable to these good folks that anyone would walk simply for the sake of walking.
They are utterly still, as if they will never move and never be found again, as if they are items accidentally dropped from a pocket, falling farther and farther behind us now.
Ashleigh Young is a poet and essayist living in Wellington, New Zealand. Setting foot in a street makes it yours in a way that driving down it never does.” Nicholson is best known for his self-described “study of obsession and obsessives” in novels like ; he finds similar material among walkers like the artist Mudman, who covers himself in mud to walk the city streets, and Captain Robert Barclay Allardice (1779-1854), a Briton who was one of history’s first competitive pedestrians and who achieved the record of walking one mile an hour for a thousand consecutive hours. Just as no two walks are ever the same, no two books about walking are the same, either.But the act of walking is not new, so books about walking tend to tread (so to speak) on common ground.Surely we’ll stop walking, stand there befuddled as if shaking ourselves out of a dream, and then one by one we’ll turn around, shaking our heads and laughing, and the person bringing up the rear will turn into the leader.But even as the dissenters are saying the words—“I really think we should turn back!Even as we agree that the pieces of sky through the trees are very blue, as we admire the persistence of the tiny streams, the marvel of the scrambling through them, a thought hums between us: If we had turned back before, we would be home now.We try to recall some sweeter hours when we weren’t thinking about the end, but our memory is blurred by footsteps and by the sticky wash of leaves against bodies. A small voice asks if maybe we should stop and rest for a few minutes. There is a momentary slackening of pace, and uncertainty ripples up and down our number.But then a sharper voice responds that if we did stop to rest, even for a few minutes, we would still be thinking about walking, calculating the distance that remained, which is a kind of walking in itself, only a motionless internal one, like the spinning beach ball on a computer—so it wouldn’t be true rest. This is a persuasive argument and we all agree immediately to continue on, and our pace gathers again.There is, at least, solidarity in the walking, a feeling of being a part of things.There are historic ones, such as the Lewis and Clark Trail, the Appalachian Trail, the Trail of Tears.Since the ancient days of wandering prophets and peripatetic philosophers, the act of walking has not only inspired our feet, but also our hearts and minds. “When I find myself in a new place I explore it on foot. Maybe it’s a way of marking territory, of beating the bounds. “Rather, it is intended to be a narrative of human walking through the ages, the story of its major forms and transformations.” Amato chronicles such episodes as Rome’s building of roads, the rise of Romanticism, and the eclipse of American walking by motoring.