All posts tagged: Wanderlust: A History of Walking

My 2018 Year-End Reading List

As 2018 draws to a close, I’m sharing this list of the books I read over the past twelve months.  Since returning from sabbatical early in 2016, I committed to reading more, and to seek out a wider range of works beyond my normal histories and biographies. Here are the treasures I found on my reading shelf this past year. Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders. I began the year with a work of fiction. In this at times perplexing yet ultimately satisfying novel, Saunders builds off the fact that in February 1862, just a year into the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln’s 11-year-old son Willie dies of typhoid fever. It is known from contemporary accounts that the President went several evenings to stay in the crypt with his son’s body in Georgetown’s Oak Hill Cemetery. Saunders takes that bit of knowledge and turns it into a rich story populated with dozens of spirits who reside in the Bardo, which is the Tibetan Buddhist name for a transition period between death and rebirth. Tears …

Sometimes the Only Way is the Long One

During a 2013 vacation where each family member chose an activity close-to-home for us to share, my wife’s selection was a day at a local retreat center.*  Upon arrival, I was pleased to see that the center had created a labyrinth in the woods.  Labyrinths have come to have a special place in my heart.  A dear friend of our family who died in his early 20s was memorialized with a labyrinth designed for people of all physical abilities.  Andrew had spent the majority of his life in a wheelchair, but that never constrained his spirit. Back at the retreat center, “walking the labyrinth” became my activity for the morning. I was reminded of this recently while re-reading Rebecca Solnit’s wonderful book Wanderlust:  A History of Walking.  An early chapter is titled “Labyrinths and Cadillacs: Walking Into the Land of the Symbolic.” (I told you it was a wonderful book!)  Solnit, who describes herself as “having been raised as nothing in particular by a lapsed Catholic and a nonpracticing Jew,” found herself walking the labyrinth …

Walking as an Act of Citizenship

I love the fact that smart phones now have built-in pedometers. Knowing I can count my steps has encouraged me to find opportunities to walk around the places I live and work each day. In the process I’ve become much more familiar with the Foggy Bottom Historic District (near the Watergate where I work) and Silver Spring (near my home).  In snowy weather, as we’ve seen this weekend on the east coast, walking is sometimes our only reliable means of transportation. Fred Kent, the founder of the Project for Public Spaces, has noted that “If you plan cities for cars and traffic, you get cars and traffic. If you plan for people and places, you get people and places.” Walking doesn’t have to be for any great purpose.  The BBC News Magazine had a recent article that highlighted the “just to walk” stroll – titled appropriately The Slow Death of Purposeless Walking. But the same study found that a mere 17% of trips were “just to walk”. And that included dog-walking. It is that “just …