Walking Home

reveries of an amateur long-distance hiker

April 27

April 27th, 2016

April 27

Calzadilla de la Cueza to Calzadilla de la Hermanillos 35 km. Another day on the flats, with only two details that stood out. For some days there have been what, for lack of a better term, I’ll have to call hobbit houses–dwellings built into the rise of a hill, part in, part out of the earth with chimneys, vents, and the like rising from the sod above the hill. Another feature that emerged today was the round barn. It is unclear to me whether they are simply storage barns or if they serve other functions–livestock shelter, etc, but I will make an effort to see one up close. Walking on long open stretches near roads does put movement in the context of transportation, and I guess a movement, a shadow, a gesture by another walker prompted a deep memory. I remembered with remarkable clarity an incident from my youth, the first moment when I really thought about walking as a means of transportation. I was young, probably under 10, in my family’s house on Summit Ave. in Woodstock Virginia. I’m sure my father was at work and I don’t recall where my mother was– if she was out of the house or working somewhere out of earshot. There was a knock at the door and there stood an old man I had never met but who was clearly a farmer. He had a tanned, deeply lined face, a faded hat, and heavy worn shoes. He carried a box full of something green, and asked if I wanted to buy some water cress. I didn’t then know what water cress was, had no money myself, had never purchased groceries for the family, and found myself alone. I’m certain I fumbled about, embarrassed, and ultimately declined the proffered greens. He turned slowly, walked back out to the road, only to walk a few yards before turning into the next driveway. I watched as he went to each of the remaining three houses on the block before walking down the road lined with tall pine trees toward downtown. He was stooped and his tread was slow, but had gravity and dignity. I remember wondering why he was walking instead of driving. He seemed otherworldly, and in many ways he was. A child of privilege–my father was the town surgeon–I understood nothing of the rigors of farming or the economy where he labored, but what struck me most was that, at that young age, I understood that I did not understand. I have since walked the world and probably have taken on a bit of that stoop, but I wonder now if I really understand any more than I did then.

T. Hugh Crawford