Monday, March 13, 2006


"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." --Henry David Thoreau, from Excursions

Over the past several days I have truly come to appreciate the kind of release that Thoreau refers to in his treatise on walking. So perhaps I don't spend four hours a day just sauntering, but Bob and I have been taking some very glorious long walks, the kind with no specific destination, the kind when you have no time frame in mind and the only limitations you experience are the ones your own body places on you--weariness, thirst, hunger. And unfortunately an escape into the woods or the wilderness is not always a possibility (though sometimes it is, as yesterday when we visited his family on their wonderful farm), we always find a way to experience the joys of nature and solitude.

Today we walked downtown from our apartment and back, making scenic turns along the way. This time of year the pink and white trees appear like cotton candy on sticks, and they are all over Athens right now. The ground is strewn with their blossoms. Violets and other tiny flowers poke their heads out of the greening grass along the sidewalk. I took it all in; I reveled in it. After eating downtown and walking through a few stores, we started back home. Walking in a westerly direction in the early evening, we saw the sky constantly ablaze in the different colors of sunset--sometimes banded, sometimes bright patches of orange light just streaming out from behind a clump of trees or beyond the house on the hill. We saw ancient stone walls built along the hillsides with crude stone steps leading up into former yards. Cracked and worn, with green moss protruding from between each separate stone, the sight was absolutely lovely, reminding me that people come and go constantly, changing the landscape along with them.

We often walk through the neighborhoods of Five Points, and I am constantly amazed at the uniqueness of each house we see. How to describe Athens architecture? The only word that comes to mind is varied. Every house strikes me as completely original, small and quaint and unobtrusively creating its own interesting niche within the neighborhood. I point to each house and say "I want to live there!" They delight me, each in its own little way. Saturday we made such an excursion in the early afternoon; we found ourselves wandering on completely unfamiliar streets. Again, the flowers along the roadside bent their heads in the sun. We saw one yard that looked like a bamboo forest; down in the valley, nestled among the bamboo, was a small gazebo that blended almost entirely out of sight until you were peering down at it. Many front yards in that neighborhood had a deep valley running through them, and a little drainage creek ran through the valley. Often the residents left these valleys overgrown, making their houses, way up on top of the far hill, seem very disconnected from the road. How would it be to live in a place where your front yard served as a natural boundary between your home and the road you lived on? It gave it a wild, rural feel, even though it was in the heart of the city. On the way home I took off my shoes and walked through the clover, which felt cool and refreshing on my feet.

I've always loved to walk, but walking with no purpose except to walk is one of the most freeing and refreshing feelings. Bob and I are making a concerted effort to do it more and more. Of course, we walk through campus to class each day--but scurrying off to class, with your eyes narrowly focused on the road before you, just does not compare!

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