I have to admit being initially frustrated by the languorous pace of walks with Miles since diabetes set in. But I have come to look forward to our leisurely circles of the nearby park, and not just because they offer a refreshing change of pace after getting dragged around the neighborhood by the huskies, who treat every outing as if it’s the final leg of the Iditarod and they’re in second place by a length.
A slow, mellow ramble is an opportunity to let the soul exhale, to ponder personal challenges in quietude, to absorb your surroundings, or to just be. On my daily jaunts with Miles, I’ve savored the dewy morning air, confronted various episodes of writer’s block, watched squirrels devour crab apples with delicate efficiency, and bounced thoughtlessly from tree to tree based on scents perceptible only to a canine.
Writers of, ahem, all walks have sung the praises of peregrination. “I have walked myself into my best thoughts,” claimed Kierkegaard, “and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it.”
“All walking is discovery,” noted the journalist and author Hal Borland. “On foot we take the time to see things whole.”
Novelists as diverse as Henry Miller, Ernest Hemingway, Edward Abbey and J.K. Rowling have cited the saunter as an effective way to work through ideas. The great Williams of the Romantic age, Blake and Wordsworth, believed a stroll through the outer world could reveal a path to one’s deepest interior.
The transcendentalists, of course, were big on perambulation. “Me thinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow,” wrote Henry David Thoreau.
Last year, The New York Times published a piece on literary walks that is worth checking out for the delightfully droll illustration of Gertrude Stein alone, but also features seven other writers and the strolls that inspired their work. The benefits of a regular promenade are obviously not confined to writers; mounting scientific research confirms Charles Dickens’ notion “walk and be happy; walk and be healthy.”
Perhaps it’s no wonder that so many writers—from E.L. Doctorow to E.B. White—are also dog lovers. Both species, it seems, are predisposed to a good walk.