MARUSKIN: Want to walk? Read up on the topic.
Go for a walk.
There. That’s the short version of today’s column.
By all means, go now if you feel inspired to do so. You can always come back later for the details.
Walking, it’s well documented medically and anecdotally, is good for you.
You’ve read the arguments; I’m not going to replay them.
Instead, I am going to suggest some books to peruse before or after you’ve saddled up Shank’s Ponies (a lovely metaphor for legs) and strolled around your neighborhood or Clark County’s beautiful countryside.
First, “The Flaneuse: Women walk the city in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice, and London” by Lauren Elkin (call No. 305.4 Elki).
This wonderfully gender-bending book uses literature, art, history and film to portray the flâneuse as a “determined, resourceful individual keenly attuned to the creative potential of the city and the liberating possibilities of a good walk.”
Virginia Woolf called it “street haunting;” Holly Golightly epitomized it in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s;” and Patti Smith did it in her own inimitable style in 1970s New York. This book will develop your eye for urban nuance.
If rural walking appeals to you more, try “Women Walking: Freedom, adventure, independence” by Karin Sagner (call No. 700 Sagn).
At the close of the 18th century, women discovered a new sense of freedom, adventure and self-determination simply by walking in public unaccompanied. This book features evocative paintings of women doing that by a range of artists from the late 18th to the early 20th century, among them British portraitist Thomas Gainsborough, the scandalous Gustave Courbet, impressionist Gustave Caillebotte, American masters Winslow Homer and John Singer Sargent and Nabi artist Felix Vallotton.
Sagner uses those paintings to show how promenades, everyday walks, gentle strolls in the country and hikes up mountains reveal an often overlooked aspect of women’s emancipation. This book feature 120 color illustrations.
If you have children and you would like to get them into the spirit of walking, read them “Henry Hikes to Fitchburg” by D.B. Johnson (call No. E J).
“Henry Hikes to Fitchburg” tells how young Henry David Thoreau walked 30 miles through woods and fields, enjoying nature with time to think great thoughts while his friend had to work hard to earn train fare to Fitchburg.
To get the whole of Thoreau’s philosophy about walking, read his essay, “Walking,” which is available through all of the library’s online e-book platforms.
For a completely different perspective on what you can experience during a walk, read “What the Robin Knows” by Jon Young (call No. 598.8 Youn).
Young describes how the robin, junco and other songbirds know everything important about their environments, backyard or forest and demonstrates how walkers can tune into their vocalizations and behavior for their own pleasure and benefit.
This groundbreaking book unites indigenous knowledge, the latest scientific research and the author’s experience of four decades in the field.
I also highly recommend the Winchester Inspired by Nature Facebook page: www.facebook.com/WinchesterInspiredbyNature. There you can find videos about trees and trails in Clark County, along with videos and stories about nature for children. Be sure to like and friend their page.
Every once in while it’s good to turn off the TV, put down the book and get outside.
Remember Wordsworth’s friendly admonition in “The Tables Turned:”
“Up! Up! My friend, and quit your books;
Or surely you’ll grow double:
Up! Up! My friend, and clear your looks;
Why all this toil and trouble?”
But remember to take your mask along and to social distance when you meet other walkers.
John Maruskin is director of adult services at the Clark County Public Library. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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