Walking Home

reveries of an amateur long-distance hiker

June 14-19

June 19th, 2016

June 14-19 Milano


The interval at the end of a long-distance trek can be a curious time in several senses. It is curious or peculiar because it is the time of not-walking following a long time of walking. Daily rhythms and concerns require new calibrating, infinite adjustment. It is also a time that requires curiosity, a questioning of what has just taken place. Of course many people finish a trek and find themselves immediately thrust back into quotidian, non-walking life without the opportunity for reflection, for necessary curiosity. Instead there is a quick and often intense celebration (think of drunken revels in Millinocket after the Appalachian Trail). After each of my recent treks, I’ve been fortunate to have time– actually I’ve aggressively claimed it so as not to waste the moment of the end–to prolong it so it thickens and stabilizes. I had a week on Stewart Island after my nearly 4 month, 3000 km walk of New Zealand’s Te Araroa, necessary to rest and heal physically but also to think. After the Annapurna circuit I had several days in Pokhara, just wandering the city. On reaching Santiago on the Camino, I then found time and nourishment in A Coruna and Muxia. The second half of the Trans-Swiss trail makes a straight line toward Milan, so that visit had a sense of inevitability. The interval is a place to breathe, to catch up on neglected obligations (writing and revising, composing letters and emails), and experience something like boredom. I use that term deliberately, not to signal ennui or laziness, but instead the necessity to avoid sightseeing, to step out of obligatory tourism and make a space for the thinking of non-walking. Of course I have visited the Duomo, seen Da Vinci’s Last Supper, toured the castle (and perhaps should make the pilgrimage to San Siro), but also have taken the time to do nothing — to celebrate the thinking that such indolence provides and produces. Many of the essays in this blog have been contemplations of time, usually walking time, but other intervals, other hiatuses, are something to treasure. Walkers find themselves in the middle of spaces, the in-between that is inter-esse (interesting), but those same treks create gaps in time which are equally important as they too make viewpoints as well as continuous ever expanding moments. Rather than boisterous celebration, endings need careful assimilation, quiet prolonging.

T. Hugh Crawford