Thomas A. Clark

In Praise of Walking

“Early one morning, any morning, we can set out, with the least possible baggage, and discover the world.”

Scottish poet Thomas A. Clark’s (b. 1944) delightfully elegant prose poem, In Praise of Walking, is only a few pages but captures every pressing, pleasurable and persistent aspect of walking. “Walking is the human way of getting about.”

The physical harmony, unity of mind and body, the lines we create by walking,. Walking exposes ourselves to the world around us, allows us to see. Walking enacts choice, we select as we go. And yet, patience “Walking is the mobile form of waiting” writes Clark.

Clark’s writing is short but complete. Hemingway said there is no mistake that the Gettysburg Address is so short. Good prose omits the unnecessary.

And yet, much truth here. I love Clark’s easy summary of nighttime walks “To walk for hours on a clear night is the largest experience we can have.”

Clark is not alone in considering nighttime a place to respond to our most vital needs. Rilke advised we should go into ourselves in the quietest part of night, while Emerson bid us look to the stars to find meaning and overcome solitude. Read more here on how we spend this empty, open and welcoming space of night.

To be completely lost is a good thing on a walk.

The most distant places seem accessible once one is on the road.

Convictions, directions, opinions, are of less importance than sensible shoes.

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When I spend a day talking I feel exhausted, when I spend it walking I am pleasantly tired.

A bright companion to Clark’s gentle sermon is Robert Macfarlane’s study of the history of paths and those who make them. For a guide to things you might glimpse while walking grab this superlative miscellany on the history and meaning of flowers. It’s small enough to take with you!