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Possumhaw: The art of sauntering


Shannon Bardwell



"Nothing like a nighttime stroll to give you ideas." 


J.K. Rowling 




My friend and I met down by the Riverwalk along the Tombigbee River. We had already agreed this was to be a leisurely walk. From the beginning, we edged by the butterfly garden and were thrilled to see butterflies enjoying plants we did not know. We entered into the shady wooded area beside Moore's Creek where fallen logs lay smoothed by running water. 


Sauntering is a wonderful exercise, though it may seem unproductive and we are so prone to think that we must produce something tangible. However, it could be sauntering or walking while musing or reflecting could actually produce a great deal. 


Walking with a friend produces good conversation, an exchange of ideas and the opportunity to lift one's spirit. Walking alone provides time to reason our thoughts and, oh, how we could use logical reasoning in the world today.  


David Roper wrote a sauntering article referring to an essay written by Henry David Thoreau on walking. There in my "Walden and Other Writings" of Henry David Thoreau book I found the essay, but realized I had never read it. The essay contained Thoreau's thoughts on sauntering: 


"I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art of walking, that is, of taking walks, who had a genius, so to speak, for sauntering ...  


"For this is the secret of successful sauntering. He who sits still in a house all the time may be the greatest vagrant of all; but the saunterer, in the good sense, is no more vagrant than the meandering river, which is all the while sedulously seeking the shortest course to the sea. 


"I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend four hours a day at least, and it is commonly more than that, sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements.  


"We have felt that we almost alone hereabouts practiced this noble art ... no wealth can buy the requisite leisure, freedom, and independence which are the capital in this profession. It comes only by the grace of God. It requires a direct dispensation from Heaven to become a walker. 


"Some of my townsmen, it is true, can remember and have described to me some walks they took 10 years ago, in which they were so blessed as to lose themselves for half an hour in the woods; but I know very well that they have confined themselves to the highway ever since, whatever pretensions they may make to belong to this select class. No doubt they were elevated for a moment as by the reminiscence to a previous state of existence ... " 


My friend and I walked and talked and greeted other walkers. Eventually we rested on a bench to discuss books we were reading before sauntering back. It was just as Thoreau suggested -- a sacred reminiscence.


Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.


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