Caminante, No Hay Camino

'Those footsteps, deep into the silence,' by Aurelio Aslain (user 'ionushi') on Flickr

[Image: “Those footsteps, deep into the silence,” by Aurelio Aslain (user “ionushi”) on Flickr. (Used under a Creative Commons license.) Aslain exhibited this photo with a poem reproduced below.]

From whiskey river:

Where does it start? Muscles tense. One leg a pillar, holding the body upright between the earth and sky. The other a pendulum, swinging from behind. Heel touches down. The whole weight of the body rolls forward onto the ball of the foot. The big toe pushes off, and the delicately balanced weight of the body shifts again. The legs reverse position. It starts with a step and then another step and then another that add up like taps on a drum to a rhythm, the rhythm of walking. The most obvious and the most obscure thing in the world, this walking that wanders so readily into religion, philosophy, landscape, urban policy, anatomy, allegory, and heartbreak.

Thinking is generally thought of as doing nothing in a production-oriented culture, and doing nothing is hard to do. It’s best done by disguising it as doing something, and the something closest to doing nothing is walking. Walking itself is the intentional act closest to the unwilled rhythms of the body, to breathing and the beating of the heart. It strikes a delicate balance between working and idling, being and doing. It is a bodily labor that produces nothing but thoughts, experiences, arrivals.

Walking, ideally, is a state in which the mind, the body, and the world are aligned, as though they were three characters finally in conversation together, three notes suddenly making a chord. Walking allows us to be in our bodies and in the world without being made busy by them. It leaves us free to think without being wholly lost in our thoughts.

The rhythm of walking generates a kind of rhythm of thinking, and the passage through a landscape echoes or stimulates the passage through a series of thoughts. This creates an odd consonance between internal and external passage, one that suggests that the mind is also a landscape of sorts and that walking is one way to traverse it. A new thought often seems like a feature of the landscape that was there all along, as though thinking were traveling rather than making. And so one aspect of the history of walking is the history of thinking made concrete — for the motions of the mind cannot be traced, but those of the feet can.

(Rebecca Solnit [source])


Until Even the Angels

What the heart wants
is to follow its true passion,
to lie down with it
near the reeds beside
the river,
to devour it in the caves
between the desert dunes,
to sing its notes
into the morning sky
until even the angels
wake up
and take notice
and look around
for their beloved.

(Dorothy Walters [source])

Not from whiskey river:


Atrás la casa,
noche adentro mis pasos,
sus rezagados

ecos. Silencio, al alba,
de la nieve cayendo.

Birth of Light

The house left behind,
footsteps deep into the night,
these echoes fallen

behind. Silence, at dawn,
of the falling snow.

(Aurelio Aslain [source])


Poem after a walk in the woods

I went for a walk in the woods alone at sunset
with my dog
and the earthquake in Haiti
and the health care bill passed by the senate
and a great horned owl
and at least 3 hunters in the surrounding hills
apparently trying to set some kind of a record for ammunition wasted in a one hour period

my feelings about the hunters
were different than my feelings about the owl
though a vole or a mouse might have felt
that the threat in the sounds they made
was pretty similar

and I enumerated in my mind the 4, or was it five, basic goals of the health
care bill passed by the senate, and left it to rest somewhere in the muddy
footprint left by a moose

and for awhile I walked with the ghosts of the people killed in the earthquake in Haiti
hundreds of thousands of them, covered with plaster dust
possibly more than the total number of people killed in the Iraq war
and thought of Pat Robertson, who said, and I paraphrase,
that the Haitians had made a pact with the devil and he was taking his due,
and this comment showed an unprecedented sense of poetry
because how could something so overwhelmingly sad and desperate
come of something so mundane as the subduction of one plate of earth under another?
Certainly an injury this huge in the fabric of the universe
must have been the result of divine intervention.

And I walked with the millions of people who will, like T cells and macrophages and fibroblasts in the dark body of the earth, heal, but oh so excruciatingly slowly, this deep and bleeding laceration.

and then I was just walking with my dog
who was barking at the vole she had unearthed
overjoyed with this intimate interspecies interaction
and then performing brief and truly inadequate CPR with her nose

and the owl again
and the hunters
and the sun setting through grey clouds on the stubble fields and forested hills
the golden light
on the half frozen ponds
of the place I walked
which lacked nothing
of perfection

(Janice Boughton [source])


Proverbios y cantares XXIX Proverbs and Songs 29
Caminante, son tus huellas
el camino, y nada más;
caminante, no hay camino,
se hace camino al andar.
Al andar se hace camino,
y al volver la vista atrás
se ve la senda que nunca
se ha de volver a pisar.
Caminante, no hay camino,
sino estelas en la mar.
Wayfarer, the only way
Is your footprints and no other.
Wayfarer, there is no way.
Make your way by going farther.
By going farther, make your way
Till looking back at where you’ve wandered,
You look back on that path you may
Not set foot on from now onward.
Wayfarer, there is no way;
Only wake-trails on the waters.

(Antonio Machado [source: various, English translation from here])

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