~When we walk, we naturally go to the fields and woods: what would become of us, if we walked only in a garden or a mall?”-Henry David Thoreau~
I have the unique and wonderful opportunity of being able to walk to work. I so enjoy this time, being out in the fresh air and allowing my mind to clear before and after my workday. Although I walk the same route each time, there is always something new to my eye, like the way the light plays out across the many lawns I pass, casting shadows at various times of day, or the way it glitters from the windows of St. Michael’s Church. With the changing seasons, the air smells and feels differently. While I was greeted with fragrant, balmy air in the summer, I was met with crisp, frigid ones this winter that often made my eyes water. But now I can hear the first, itsy-bitsy sign of spring: the birds singing. Not that we don’t hear birds sing in the winter months, but the sound is definitely different at this time of year. The song is more melodious, more alive and others join in the chorus seemingly shouting out: Yes! Spring is coming! I close my eyes in the sunshine and, listening to the birds, picture the blossoming flowers and budding trees.
It is these walks that have kept me at least mildly sane these past few months of raging winter. It is a comfort to know that my own two legs and body are capable of walking and withstanding pretty much any weather element. Not too surprising though, since I come from a family of walkers. Both my grandfather and grandma loved to walk. My grandma used to walk three-miles to her one-room school house every day enjoying each step of the way. On the weekends, her father would walk across their whole farm, through the fields and pastures and my grandma would join him, reveling in his company and the surrounding landscape. My grandpa was an avid walker too. He would walk every day four miles from his house to Litchfield Town Farm. Even now, at ninety-one years old, when the weather warms he will be outside…not walking as far or as long as he used to, but still walking.
What strikes me about both of my grandparents is that they walked for enjoyment. In today’s world, one that is busy but also exercise driven, it’s easy to forget to simply slow down and enjoy walking for what it is. That is why I love my walks to the library: I’m not pushing my body to burn calories, I’m simply enjoying the fifteen minutes or so each way. And if you think about it, people back in the day pretty much relied on their own two feet to get them places. They walked to the general store, walked to visit their family and friends, walked to church, and walked their land. In many countries today people still do this, and you look and see how healthy and happy they are and you have to think they must be doing something right.
So here’s a little tribute to my feet: whether I’m walking my route to work, exploring new hiking trails, or savoring old ones I can always count on my own two feet to get me where I’m going.
Take some time in your day to walk, even for fifteen minutes outside, and listen to the sounds of spring around you, take a deep breath, and enjoy it!
Wanderlust: A History of Walking looks at walking on many aspects: pleasure, political, aesthetic, and social and how walking has shaped our culture through the years. She also examines some of our most famous walkers, including Wordsworth and Jane Austen’s Elizabeth Bennet.
The Lost Art of Walking: The History, Science, Philosophy, and Literature of Pedestrianism is another look at walking as a tradition through the ages. The author, Geoff Nicholson breaks down the book into sections on various cultural aspects, including where we walk and why.
A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson is a classic must-read. Bryson sets out on the Appalachian trail with his goofball friend, hoping to re-acquaint himself with America and its landscape after being in Britain for many years. His writing is humorous yet detailed, and I found myself laughing at several points of their journey, especially when his friend gets so tired from carrying his pack that he just impulsively throws everything out of it, including food!
I read Northern Farm: A Chronicle of Maine by Henry Beston (the same author who wrote The Outermost House, the infamous story about his time spent in Cape Cod) this winter and adored it. Beston creates such a lovely, cozy picture of his home life in Maine. He and his wife occupy a small house, and the book contains his journal entries throughout the year. Beston walks often around the farm and country roads, observing the changes in the land and the seasons. Take this one poetic passage from his thoughts in March: “Walking homewards towards the farm, now listening to the sound of water, now forgetting it as we talked, we both could see that much of the pond was surfaced with open water above its floor of ice…our own windows shone nearby, but we did not enter, so haunted were we both by the sense of the change in the year and the continuous sound of waters moving in the earth.”
Loop Year: 365 Days on the Trail by John Sheirer is a fantastic book which chronicles Sheirer’s adventures on one trail, every day for one full year. He discussed this book in one of my undergraduate courses and here at OWL. He shows how even though you can walk the same trail each day, you can see something new and exciting throughout the changing seasons.
In both Healthy at 100: The Scientifically Proven Secrets of the World’s Healthiest and Longest-Lived Peoples by John Robbins and You Staying Young by Dr. Oz, they discuss the importance of exercise, and particularly walking. Dr. Oz recommends at least thirty minutes a day. I remember seeing a special program of his on TV once where they talk about the “blue zones” in the world where people live the longest. In one Asian country they mentioned, the elderly stay very active. One old man even went out everyday with a siecle to chop down large weeds (and if you have ever used one of those you know how hard that can be!)
Walks in Welcoming Places has a list of walks all around the northeast, including Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut and New Jersey. A nice feature of this book is that it’s specifically for all age groups, as well as, those who are disabled or have difficulty getting around. The section on Litchfield takes you all around the town.
Nature Walks in Connecticut, Weantinoge Walks, and Off the Beaten Path Connecticut all offer fabulous trail maps and walks throughout Connecticut to get you out in the woods. My favorites include Lion’s Head trail in Salisbury which has a great view from top, Cathedral Pines on Mohawk Trail and the Wildwoods Sanctuary in Sharon which is part of the Weantinoge Land Trust.
“What has come over our age is an alienation from Nature unexampled in human history. It has cost us our sense of reality and all but cost us our humanity.”–Henry Beston
Sarai is the Publicity Coordinator/Library Assistant who can’t wait for all the snow to melt so she can break in her new hiking shoes on some trails!