The joy of sauntering

To softly saunter

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.”

Only a couple inches of snow on the ground in this patch of woods

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.

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.

Wild turkey feather

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.

Meandering winter creek.

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.

World sauntering in darkness

(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.

Fallen tree

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.

Boots over the bay

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!

About Kathy

I live in the middle of the woods in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Next to Lake Superior's cold shores. I love to blog.
This entry was posted in January 2021 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

60 Responses to The joy of sauntering

  1. jeffstroud says:

    Kathy,
    You certainly did saunter through the woods… as you had mentioned you might yesterday!
    My sauntering was more in line with waiting, when the wait got to long I noticed the Sunshine, the 40+ degrees, so I strolled out to the park amongst the trees alone the lake. Took no photos, said hi to my tree friends as I pressed my hand against their trunks.

    • Kathy says:

      Jeff, I suspect even sauntering can involve waiting. Maybe noticing is simply a kind of sauntering. Glad you were able to visit the lake and reach out to touch your tree friends. Those are one kind of friend that we can still touch during these virus days.

  2. leelah saachi says:

    I loved sauntering with you. In Norwegian it’s called to slentre. To me, sauntering happens – if I decide to saunter, it often melts into quicker steps, I tend to lose it. New reminder.
    But here, it is easy to saunter WITH you. Enjoying and sniffing all those wonderful atmospheric photos, there is so much LIFE in them.

    • Kathy says:

      How very interesting, Leelah. I thought of your comment yesterday while walking on the road. It’s funny–if I walk in the woods (without a trail) sauntering happens effortlessly. It’s like the only way to walk. This way, that way, this way. It feels more impossible to saunter along a road because it’s a straight line. Then it feels like “walking” unless, as you say, sauntering just happens. Sometimes running unexpectedly happens! I am always in awe and amazement when that bursts out of nowhere. Usually in the summertime, when there’s no ice.

  3. dawnkinster says:

    How nice to saunter with you in the wilds of the UP. Such a pretty place for such an endeavor. I saunter more when I have my camera with me, which is, when I think about it, most of the time. I’d rather saunter than jog, that’s for sure! But even back in the days when I WAS jogging it was more of a saunter.

    • Kathy says:

      Dawn, how interesting that you saunter more with a camera. I can see that happening because you’re looking here and there for shots of interest. So a person would wander from interesting view to interesting view. I have always admired people who like to jog, but am always pulled back to sauntering in the woods or just walking on the road.

  4. Ally Bean says:

    Oh darling, I am the Queen of Sauntering. I am a mosey-er from way back. I find so many new-to-me things and ideas when I allow myself to be leisurely, strolling along, enjoying what I can learn along the way.

    • Kathy says:

      Ally Bean, I am so delighted to meet the Queen of Sauntering! Do you wear your crown when wandering to and fro? I am picturing you as a fairy queen now looking this way and that, totally enjoying the surprises around the next bend.

  5. Stacy says:

    I didn’t know the etymology of saunter – what a great word! We Southerners are pretty good at sauntering because the heat, not necessarily due to a love of quiet contemplation. I love sauntering with you and observing with your eagle’s eye. XOXO

    • Kathy says:

      Wasn’t that etymology fascinating, Stacy? Yes, I can imagine one might saunter leisurely in the South, to prevent heat exhaustion or dripping sweat. We northerners in the winter might not WANT to saunter because it can be so darned cold! Thanks for sauntering along, Stacy.

  6. candidkay says:

    Oh, Kathy, you’ve got me thinking (as you usually do). I don’t think I saunter enough. I think I’ve generally walked and moved through life with this purpose–and I’m not sure it’s good as a steady diet, if I’m honest. I’m going to try to moodle and saunter a bit more this week–thanks for the reminder:). Your shots of water are the perfect backdrop. If you can’t saunter near water, I don’t know WHAT you can saunter near:).

    • Kathy says:

      It sounds like you’re being inspired to moodle! I kind of think of it like Yin and Yang. We’re usually more on the yang side in our culture, trying to walk with purpose and Fit Bits and clock steps. Sauntering seems more of a Yin activity that soothes the soul. Perhaps we need both. πŸ™‚

  7. Larissa says:

    Yay, turkeys! πŸ¦ƒπŸ¦ƒπŸ¦ƒπŸ¦ƒπŸ¦ƒ
    Thank you for sharing all this beauty with us.
    I love a good saunter, and I love knowing where the word comes from

    • Kathy says:

      Love that turkey emoji! It sounds like many of us cohabit with our wild turkey fellas and gals these days. Glad you enjoyed this saunter through our woods to the lake. Now I am trying to picture you sauntering in your neck of the woods.

  8. Debbie says:

    You’re speaking my language today, Kathy! I love sauntering, moseying. I get lots of good ideas when I slow down a bit and wander somewhat aimlessly. When I had my Sheltie, I’d do two walks most days: one, fast for my health; the other, sauntering, so he could sniff. I miss those days!

    • Kathy says:

      I’ll bet you do miss those days with your special Sheltie, Debbie. It sounds like you had the best of both worlds–fast walking for health and sauntering for the spirit.

  9. Sarah Davis says:

    Love it! I was just I thinking this morning how my movement so far this year has been more gentle on my body. I have no desire to β€œfeel the burn.”

    • Kathy says:

      How sweet you’re being to your body this year. I think perhaps we’ll know if we need to sweat and move or just stretch and saunter. For every season, turn, turn, turn…

  10. Carol says:

    I’m with you and John Muir. I can saunter so much better than I can hike, and my back is so much happier when I saunter than it is when I jaunt.

  11. I’d like to say that I like to saunTer, but I’d be lying. I SHOULD be okay with sauntering. I believe in sauntering. I saunter internally all the time, in my mind. But when walking I HATE to saunter. To dilly dally. I have given up friends (at least walking with them) if they saunter instead of walk at a brisk pace. I’m ashamed of myself! And you give us many wonderful reasons why sauntering is good for the soul. Okay, I’m off to run up and down the stairs to add to my steps today. Tee hee. Just kidding…. kinda.

    • rehill56 says:

      Love this roughwighting! Made me laugh.πŸ’•

    • Kathy says:

      Pam–you funny one! I have been thinking a LOT about sauntering since writing this post and here’s what I think. Sauntering (to me) is just letting the Spirit decide where it wants to go, rather than our minds. You were sauntering doing your snow angel dance. We can never saunter with another person (unless they are a special sauntering person) because everyone’s Saunter GPS is set at different speeds and directions. I am not sure it’s possible to saunter on a road or sidewalk as easily as when in the woods. And saunter can be VERY fast. I have been known to break into a RUN for a minute or two when sauntering! It’s always amazing when this happens, as I think I don’t like to run. Today I went on a walk. That is very different from a saunter. It had direction and purpose. OK, gonna stop talking now. This comment is sauntering like crazy!

  12. As a body ages that will be no problem sauntering because you will no longer be speedy as a race horse unless your body is in some kind of superman form. While I can still pick-um up and put-um down (big and quick steps) I just can’t walk as fast as I did 10 years. But in your area there is every reason to saunter. So much beauty to see in the woods.

    • Kathy says:

      Yvonne, it seems you are right about how the body’s aging will probably keep most of us in sauntering mode as we get older. I am glad you are still able to enjoy time out & about. And there is indeed much beauty all around to see!

  13. Beautiful post. It made me smile a lot. The idea is just so refreshing, I mean, why do we always fall for the set path when we can saunter and explore?

    • Kathy says:

      Why indeed?!! There’s a time for purpose and goals…but, my goodness, just to let all that fall away and allow life to lead our steps. So refreshing!

  14. Robin says:

    I love wandering, meandering, and sauntering. They are my favorite activities. Thank you so much for taking us along on your saunter, meander, and wander. The Muir quote is one of my favorites and I often think of my walks/hikes/saunters/meanders/wanders as a kind of pilgrimage of the outer and inner kind. β™₯

    • Kathy says:

      You and I think alike about sauntering, Robin. It can be a pilgrimage which teaches us so much. I love that the outer and inner world isn’t really separate. ❀

  15. debyemm says:

    Back when I could still enjoy long hikes, I did sometimes leave the usual trail to “wander aimlessly in nature’s sweet theater of unimaginable beauty and surprises.” Often I found little treasures to take home with me. Sauntering is such a nice word – unhurried – like slow life which I appreciate more and more each day. Have done enough of the frenzied activity to get everything necessary done. Much of it may never have actually been necessary.

    • Kathy says:

      Isn’t that interesting, Deb? We often think we have to get this or that done. It can be so busy in our lives. Yet the slow life offers so much more in terms of noticing and spirit. xoxo

  16. Val Boyko says:

    Lovely captures on your saunter Kathy.πŸ’
    You captured the spirit of John Muir beautifully. As an aside, did you know he came from East Lothian, Scotland – not far from where I used to live. He brought his love of nature to the US and had such an amazing impact on us all πŸ’›πŸ™πŸ’›

  17. Joanne says:

    You saw the Facebook post too! I’ve saved it, I thought it was so good, and so apt for what I like to do. A trip to my garbage bins can take an hour, as I saunter off to pull out a few weeds in the garden, admire the new buds on a plant, or have a chat with a feathered friend. It takes even longer if I take my camera with me. πŸ˜‰ The Big Woods and Lake Superior seem like a remarkable place to saunter around, and so different to my patch of Australia. πŸ™‚

    • Kathy says:

      It sounds like you’ve a love for sauntering, too, Joanne. How lucky we are to be able to do so…and to see our friends saunter on their blog pages!

  18. timalanmi says:

    Always read your posts but always don’t respond with a reply .. but know I am enjoy your blog very much .. and especially now in this time we find ourselves living in .. its good to saunter and try to take in each moment that life brings to us ..

  19. I love a good saunter, meander and flaneur. I am admiring all of your many shades of snow!

    • Kathy says:

      A flaneur! Have never heard that particular phrase before–thank you! And, yes, so many shades of snow. People can hardly believe how blue snow looks in shade or gray.

  20. Laura Bennet says:

    Yes, my husband and I often saunter in the evening. πŸ˜‰

  21. Kathy, do you remember this post from 2010? This current post took me back to how much I loved your old one. I love your nature meanderings/saunterings! I love seeing how your neck of the woods is similar to mine, and how it differs…
    https://upwoods.wordpress.com/2010/02/07/why-i-wont-usually-go-cross-country-skiing-with-you/
    Yes! I do enjoy sauntering! Henry David Thoreau wrote in his journal, “It is a great art to saunter.” And in an essay, “I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art of Walking, that is, of taking walks, who had a genius, so to speak, for *sauntering.*” Thank you so much for sharing this wonder filled winter walk with us!

    • Kathy says:

      Barbara, THANK YOU for pointing out that old blog. I can’t believe you would remember it! I forget most blogs the moment they’re written. It says I’ve written over 1,100 posts here, but the truth is–I can hardly remember six of them. And usually don’t go back and read either.

      How interesting that Thoreau called it a “great art” to saunter. He may be right. As with all art, it requires becoming Present with whatever is arising. And that brings us back into the field of spirituality, does it not?

      • Our memories are funny things. Certain things, like that post, stick in my mind forever. Other things I cannot remember to save my life. Confession: I do go back and read and even edit. A lot!

        If anyone connects walking with spirituality it’s Thoreau. One of the reasons I love him and quote him all the time. πŸ™‚ He was only 44 when he died and already so wise…

        • Kathy says:

          Memories are funny things, indeed, Barbara! You are lucky that you enjoy editing–I do NOT. I edit immediately before and after posting a blog, but then it’s done forever. Do so love Thoreau and did not know that he died so young.

  22. Elisa says:

    My heart is happy to ponder sauntering! My shivering says speed it up saunterer, so i try not to feel shame and to just notice what i can. yes, I can should, and shame, my saunterer (rolls eyes at self)

    • Kathy says:

      Oh, Elisa, the shame-voices. They simply don’t understand yet. But we might teach them, slowly, saunteringly, how it can be to walk slowly, to digest slowly, to live slowly. I am working at teaching mine whenever they come up. πŸ™‚

  23. Tilly travel says:

    Walking as always been one of my favorite things to do, when we have walked coastal paths hikers would rush past us and I would often remark to hubby, ‘how can they possible take in all this beauty.’ He would say that for them it is getting from A to B in a set time, they are not bothered about the seals on the beach, the lapping waves, the small flowers or singing birds. I feel they miss so much.

    You have it warm and snowy! It’s -1 to 5 here and NOOOOO snow. Enjoy your meandering Kathy, I long to be out in nature.

    By the way I really like the dark photo of your road.

    Bright Blessings

    • Kathy says:

      There is so much to see in our saunters, Tilly! And I know from your posts that you like to saunter and see all that is there, too. Small flowers can be so amazing! And aren’t you lucky to see seals on the beach? I haven’t seen seals since visiting our son when he lived in San Diego. Sounds very cold in your neck of the woods–it’s freezing here this morning, too. Glad also I posted that dark picture of our road!

  24. I love sauntering, particularly in a place I’ve never been before, just wandering to see what I will find. I enjoyed sauntering with you on this beautiful meander Kathy.

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