So often in our society we vow to exercise, walk briskly, hike four miles, cover ground, get our hearts pumping for health and longevity.
Nothing wrong with that. Our bodies may appreciate the vigor, movement, intensity.
But I am in love with another kind of walking: the fine and subtle art of sauntering.
Does anyone else adore sauntering? Meandering? Wandering aimlessly in nature’s sweet theater of unimaginable beauty and surprises?
Yesterday morning I wondered what to write about this week. A Facebook friend quoted John Muir on hiking:
“I don’t like either the word or the thing. People ought to saunter in the mountains – not hike! Do you know the origin of that word ‘saunter?’ It’s a beautiful word. Away back in the Middle Ages people used to go on pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and when people in the villages through which they passed asked where they were going, they would reply, ‘A la sainte terre,’ ‘To the Holy Land.’ And so they became known as sainte-terre-ers or saunterers. Now these mountains are our Holy Land, and we ought to saunter through them reverently, not ‘hike’ through them.”
Saunter indeed! What a good word to describe what I love most about walking in the woods. To just let the feet do the walking. To go in whatever direction they desire. To allow the planning mind to relax and the feet decide direction.
To allow the eye to catch whatever it wants to see next.
Like wild turkey tracks.
Wild turkeys moved in our northern and western Upper Peninsula maybe five years ago. Several years before that they settled in the southern UP. We couldn’t wait until they might migrate north. Now they’re here–and it’s not uncommon to see families waddling alongside the road. Last summer we even saw a flock out by our wood pile.
Apparently they’re all over the woods down by our Huron Bay this winter. Tracks decorate the snow everywhere.
If you’re lucky, you might even spot a small feather. If your saunter leads you to it.
Sauntering provides such amazement! Because there’s no expectation, you never know what might be revealed next. You keep your eyes open and wait to see.
Joy awaits around the corner as ice sparkles in a spruce tree.
One can saunter in all areas of life, methinks. We can saunter in conversation, without goal or expectation, just open to where it wants to go next. We can saunter throughout our days just following the next moment’s clue. Listening to what needs or wants to happen next.
My sauntering feet walked across the road to the Eagle Pond to admire ice, sunlight, evergreens, hundreds of deer and turkey tracks, peace, stillness, utter quiet.
Next the feet turned down a path beside a moving creek. I pondered how nature saunters. She moves hither and yon without premeditation.
I marveled how our warm January (temperatures in the 30’s this week) has kept much of the ice at bay. The ground meanders between freezing and melting.
The weak January sun creates magic in the woods. The dark holds its breath and disappears. For contrast, let me show you a picture of what it looks like to walk down our road on a dark morning.
(Excuse me! I sauntered even within writing this post–had not intended to post that black gray photo.)
Back to yesterday’s walk. The feet sauntered through deeper snow (four inches maybe?) down to the Huron Bay. Usually at this time of year the bay is covered with ice and my husband can go ice fishing.
Not this year. Notice the open water out a ways.
I love the way the fallen trees look as they recline in Lake Superior. Even at rest, they appear peaceful and shining with artistic beauty.
My boots (complete with ice grippers this time of year, of course) decided to pause overlooking the bay and contemplate the beauty. Well, they were too relaxed to even contemplate. Thinking ceased, lulled by sun, shimmering waves, ice.
I recommend sauntering to all of us lovers of the spirit of nature.
Thanks for sauntering along!