Is Walking Prayer?

I suppose that this value [in walking], in my case, is equivalent to what others get by churchgoing and prayer. I come home to my solitary woodland walk as the homesick go home. I thus dispose of the superfluous and see things as they are, grand and beautiful. I have told many that I walk every day about half the daylight, but I think they do not believe it. I wish to get the Concord, the Massachusetts, the America, out of my head and be sane a part of every day.
— Thoreau’s Journal, January 7, 1857

Thoreau also avers (in “Walking”) that when we move away from knowledge of facts toward “Sympathy with Intelligence” (toward prayer?)  we become “a child of the mist.” We dream (or see)  well beyond the constraints of school or village philosophy, perhaps with Hamlet (. . . more than is dreamt of in . . . ) — and see yet through a glass darkly: “Live free, child of the mist — and with respect to knowledge we are all children of the mist”  (para 77).


4 comments on “Is Walking Prayer?

  1. dmf says:

    indeed, by and large we seem to have lost the perambulators art of the stroll but it is my daily ritual.

  2. dmf says:

    pollen dust blows
    Swirl of light strokes writhing
    knot-tying light paths,

    calligraphy of cars.

    Los Angeles basin and hill slopes
    Checkered with streetways. Floral loops
    Of the freeway express and exchange.

    Dragons of light in the dark
    sweep going both ways
    in the night city belly.
    The passage of light end to end and rebound,
    —ride drivers all heading somewhere—
    etch in their traces to night’s eye-mind

    calligraphy of cars.

    Vole paths. Mouse trails worn in
    On meadow grass;
    Winding pocket-gopher tunnels,
    Marmot lookout rocks.
    Houses with green watered gardens
    Slip under the ghost of the dry chaparral,

    shrine to the L. A. River
    The jinja that never was there
    is there.
    Where the river debouches
    the place of the moment
    of trembling and gathering and giving
    so that lizards clap hands there
    —just lizards
    come pray, saying
    “please give us health and long life.”

    A hawk,
    a mouse.

    Slash of calligraphy of freeways of cars.

    Into the pools of the channelized river
    the Goddess in tall rain dress
    tosses a handful of meal.

    Gold bellies roil
    mouth-bubbles, frenzy of feeding,
    the common ones, the bright-colored rare ones
    show up, they tangle and tumble,
    godlings ride by in Rolls Royce
    wide-eyed in brokers’ halls
    lifted in hotels
    being presented to, platters
    of tidbit and wine,
    snatch of fame,

    churn and roil,

    meal gone the water subsides.

    A mouse,
    a hawk.

    The calligraphy of lights on the night
    freeways of Los Angeles

    will long be remembered.

    late-rising moon.

    Gary Snyder, “Night Song of the Los Angeles Basin”

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