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])

…and:

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])

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The Garden, Neglected

[Video: scene from 12 Monkeys, in which the protagonists learn
the true intentions of a shadowy revolutionary movement]

From whiskey river:

The wind, one brilliant day, called
to my soul with an odor of jasmine.

“In return for this jasmine odor,
I’d like all the odor of your roses.”

“I have no roses; I have no flowers left now
in my garden… all are dead.”

“Then, I’ll take the waters of the fountains,
and the yellow leaves and the dried-up petals.”

The wind left… I wept. I said to myself:
“What have you done with the garden entrusted to you?”

(Antonio Machado, translated by Robert Bly [source])

…and:

I am a frayed and nibbled survivor in a fallen world, and I am getting along. I am aging and eaten and have done my share of eating too. I am not washed and beautiful, in control of a shining world in which everything fits, but instead am wandering awed about on a splintered wreck I’ve come to care for, whose gnawed trees breathe a delicate air, whose bloodied and scarred creatures are my dearest companions, and whose beauty beats and shines not in its imperfections but overwhelmingly in spite of them, under the wind-rent clouds, upstream and down.

(Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek [source])

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