2 wandering the world into being

To become a philosopher, start by walking very slowly.*

On the wall of a hostel in Cowgate, Edinburgh, a neon sign declares: “NOT ALL THOSE WHO WANDER ARE LOST.”

For many, wandering is a way of slowing down in order to see more:

I loafe and invite my soul,

I lean and loafe at my ease … observing a spear of summer grass.**

In this way, Walt Whitman opens Leaves of Grass, his great poem of noticing.

To be human is to wander.

There are so many different forms and expressions: faith pilgrimages; native Australian songlines; the labyrinth for pilgrims not able to undertake a long journey; quadrangles in academia and cloisters in ecclesia allowing people to walk and talk or walk alone an ponder – recognising the link between movement and our thinking:

I can only meditate when I am walking.  When I stop, I cease to think; my mind only works with my legs.^

Wanderings can be physical or cerebral.  So open is the wanderer to following a path or a thought that it can look as if they are lost:

To lose yourself: a voluptuous surrender, lost in your arms, lost to the world, utterly immersed in what is present so that is surroundings fade away.  In [Walter] Benjamin’s terms, to be lost is to be capable of being in uncertainty and mystery.^^

As well as noticing more, there are a host of good reasons for wandering: slowing down, exploring an unfamiliar path or idea to see where it goes, walking out our response to some resistance by taking a new path.

The doodles are offered as a means of allowing the mind and heart to wander, each being prompted by a simple thought, the colouring asking us to go slowly, the images suggesting things we otherwise struggle to imagine.

“Wander” comes close with its word-shadow of “wonder,” as does the Scots word “stravaig,” meaning to ramble without set goals or destination, but best of all perhaps is “saunter,” from the French sans terre, which is a contraction of à la sainte terre, meaning to the sacred place, i.e. “a walking pilgrimage.”  Saunter and sarha both have surface connotations and smuggled connotations of the spiritual.*^

*From Nassim Taleb’s The Bed of Procrustes;
**From Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass;
^Jean Jacques Rousseau, quoted in Shane O’Mara’s In Praise of Walking;
^^From Rebecca Solnit’s A Field Guide to Getting Lost;
*^From Robert Macfarlane’s The Old Ways;
^*From Shane O’Mara’s In Praise of Walking (below).

SOMETHING TO DO: You may like to go for a wander sooner rather than later:

Pound the pavements; get the wind on your face; let the light of day and the streetlamps of night dance on your eyes; feel the rain on your face; sense the ground beneath your feet; hear the sounds; talk – if only to yourself; relax into the rhythm of walking and let your mind wander, deliberate, contemplate; journey into your past, delve into your possible futures; or think of nothing at all.^*

It’s easy to do this where you live and by different means.  I once read of someone who explored new places by following his nose rather than a map.  Another way is to follow bird song.  I once asked people to offer me directions and then wandered out to see where I would end up.  You’re welcome to see where the same ones take you: right, right, left, right, left – but please be careful when crossing roads.

You can try combining this with the slow walking exercise, which is simply walking at half your normal speed and seeing what you notice.  

Colour in the doodle, and then turn to create your own, perhaps with a favourite wandering or walking quote, or a line or lines (haiku?) that comes to you.


Wanderlust by Rebecca Solnit

The Lost Art of Walking by Geoff Nicholson

The Happiness of Pursuit by Chris Guillebeau

Movie: The Way


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s