Stepping lightly into twenty thirteen

Cover: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold FryWhen country singer Patsy Cline went out walking after midnight, we can be fairly certain she wasn’t after getting from A to B, nor was she looking to slim down and get fit. No, Patsy was after some soul searching. And walking for the soul has just hit its bookish straps. This is a soul walking blog with no mention  made of pedometers or lycra. Just strap on your metaphorical hiking boots and let’s get spiritual.

Many moons ago when I had long permed hair, listened to Woodstock Festival music and wore floaty tie-dye dresses, I read The Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananada. It was all mind blowing, but I remember best the descriptions of spiritual walkers (lung-gom pa) who could take giant steps and sort of fly over the Himalayas. I wanted to do that so badly.

More recently I have stumbled on book after book where the main character just ups sticks and walks off into the wide blue yonder. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce is a lovely, gentle read about a man who walks the length of England to make a long overdue apology, and in The Lighthouse, by Alison Moore, the main character, newly separated from his wife, goes on a “restorative walking holiday”. Both books made the 2012 Man Booker Prize long list. Is that a sign of the times or what?

But wait, there’s more … In The Year of the Hare  by Arto Paasilinna, a man involved in a minor car crash walks away from his career, his marriage and his friends and wanders around Finland with a hare in his pocket. All the men in these novels learn a lot about themselves, to the dismay/rage of their left-at-home wives.

Walking for the soul has a long history that shows no signs of dying out. In fact, it’s starting to look as if we are hardwired to want to do it. For example, the popularity of pilgrimages to locations such as  Santiago de Compostela has increased over time and the library has many resources to inspire pilgrim hopefuls.

How about you, have you ever wanted to walk out of the house – alone – and keep going until you can go no further? Have you wanted to slow right down and think your thinks while placing one foot in front of the other? And, most importantly, have you remembered to arrange for your significant other to come and fetch you when you have had enough?

If any of this has crossed your mind, maybe 2013 will be the year when we all seriously decide to walk the walk.

7 thoughts on “Stepping lightly into twenty thirteen

  1. Lynne James 7 January 2013 / 12:08 pm

    Laurie Lee “As I walked out one Midsummer morning”, Slavomir Rawicz “The long walk” Geoffrey Moorhouse “The fearful void”, and the second volume of Primo Levi’s memoir of the war – all good walking books. An astonishing thought – the path from your house leads to every other place in the world. Not to mention Bilbo Baggins’ The path goes ever on, Down from the door where it begun…

    • robertafsmith 7 January 2013 / 12:40 pm

      Excellent recommendations – turns out that walking is a theme that has appealed to numerous authors.

  2. Robyn 7 January 2013 / 3:34 pm

    I have heard great things about Wanderlust: A history of walking by Rebecca Solnit. Geoff Dyer thinks highly of her so she must be good.

    • robertafsmith 8 January 2013 / 2:40 pm

      Goeff Dyer, say no more! I have placed a hold on this book thanks.

  3. Allison 8 January 2013 / 11:09 pm

    Do you know Patrick Leigh Fermor’s A Time of Gifts (as an 18-year old walking from London to Constantinople, as it then was – 1933) and Rory Stewart’s The Places in Between (2002), an intensely moving description of his walk across Afghanistan? I’ve also been wracking my brains to remember the name of the book where a woman abandons her family on the beach – for reasons unexplained, though I’m sure every woman could think of many!

    • robertafsmith 9 January 2013 / 7:16 am

      I don’t know the first two, but will add them to my list, but I too wanted to mention the beach lady but can’t remember the title either. Every single woman in my book club identified with her. For a while there we were none of us safe to be left alone on a beach!

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