I now go into these woods planning for my plans to be thwarted, and for the possibility of staying out past dark. As I prepare for walks and runs, I can’t help but think of Thoreau’s essay on the concept of sauntering. He goes about analyzing the epistemology of the word, which comes from the Middle Ages when people wandered Europe for months on foot a la Sainte Terre, in search of the Holy Land. There were tricksters who posed as saunterers, asking for money on their false holy journey and promptly returning home, but true saunterers only returned home after reaching the Holy Land. By the end of his essay, Thoreau makes the declaration that the only way to go on a true walk is to make a full commitment to your journey, and to return only when you have glimpsed the sublime. He concludes,
“We should go forth on the shortest walk, perchance, in the spirit of undying adventure, never to return — prepared to send back our embalmed hearts only as relics to our desperate kingdoms. If you are ready to leave father and mother, and brother and sister, and wife and child and friends, and never see them again — if you have paid your debts, and made your will, and settled all your affairs, and are a free man — then you are ready for a walk.”
It is absurd, yes. But I’m charmed nonetheless. If I don’t return before nightfall, you can guess that I went out for a walk. Don’t expect me back for dinner without some chantarelles.