Friday, July 6, 2012

In Praise of Walking

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

It is quite possible to refuse all the coercion, violence, property,
triviality, to simply walk away.

That something exists outside ourselves and our preoccupations,
so near, so readily available, is our greatest blessing.

Walking is the human way of getting about.

Always, everywhere, people have walked, veining the earth with 
paths, visible and invisible, symmetrical and meandering.

There are walks in which we tread in the footsteps of others,
walks on which we strike out entirely for ourselves.

A journey implies a destination, so many miles to be consumed,
while a walk is its own measure, complete at every point along
the way.

There are things we will never see, unless we walk to them.

Walking is a mobile form of waiting.

What I take with me, what I leave behind, are of less importance
than what I discover along the way.

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

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

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

In the course of a walk, we usually find out something about our
companion, and this is true even when we travel alone.

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

The pace of the walk will determine the number and variety of 
things to be encountered, from the broad outlines of a mountain 
range to a tit’s nest among the lichen, and the quality of attention 
that will be brought to bear upon them.

A rock outcrop, a hedge, a fallen tree, anything that turns us out
of our way, is an excellent thing on a walk. 

Wrong turnings, doubling back, pauses and digressions, all contribute
to the dislocation of a persistent self-interest.

Everything we meet is equally important or unimportant.

The most lonely places are the most lovely.

Walking is egalitarian and democratic; we do not become experts
at walking and one side of the road is as good as another.

Walking is not so much romantic as reasonable.

The line of a walk is articulate in itself, a kind of statement.

Pools, walls, solitary trees, are natural halting places.

We lose the flavour of walking if it becomes too rare or too
extraordinary, if it turns into an expedition; rather it should be
quite ordinary, unexceptional, just what we do.

Daily walking, in all weathers, in every season, becomes a sort of
ground or continuum upon which the least emphatic occurrences
are registered clearly.

A stick of ash or blackthorn, through long use, will adjust itself
to the palm.

Of the many ways through a landscape, we can choose, on each
occasion, only one, and the project of a walk will be to remain
responsive, adequate, to the consequences of the choice we have
made, to confirm the chosen way rather than refuse the others.

One continues on a long walk not through effort of will but through

Storm clouds, rain, hail, when we have survived these we seem
to have taken on some of the solidity of rocks and trees.

A day, from dawn to dusk, is the natural span of a walk.

A dull walk is not without value.

To walk for hours on a clear night is the largest experience
we can have.

For the right understanding of a landscape, information
must come to the intelligence from all the senses.

Looking, singing, resting, breathing are all complementary
to walking.

Climbing uphill, the horizon grows wider, descending, the hills
gather round.

We can take a walk which is a sampling of different airs: the
invigorating air of the heights; the filtered air of a pine forest;
the rich air over ploughed earth.

We can walk between two places, and in so doing establish a link
between them, bring them into a warmth of contact, like
introducing two friends.

There are walks on which I lose myself, walks which return me to
myself again.

Is there anything better that to be out, walking, in the
clear air?

Thomas A. Clark


Matt said...

Is it 'loose' or 'lose'?

Anonymous said...

I'd guess lose both times, and nest for next.

comac said...

Good proof-reading, Matt& Anon. Hope you enjoyed the message throughout the writing, esp.
'Walking is egalitarian and democratic; we do not become experts at walking and one side of the road is as good as another.'

Simon Gregg said...

Thank you for the corrections! I've fixed them.

Unknown said...

Nice. Love it.
Isn't that also a typo [isn't THAT also a typo], in the last line? Than works better for me.
Eric (twin to another Thomas Clark)

David T said...

Agreed. Definitely 'than'.

'that' makes no sense.

David T said...

Agreed. Definitely 'than'.

'that' makes no sense.

I believe also that there should be a semicolon, not a comma, after '

Anonymous said...

The following clause has been attributed to artist Francis Alys on a number of publications/websites: "A journey implies a destination, so many miles to be consumed, while a walk is its own measure, complete at every point along the way." Can you confirm whether the clause was originally written by Clark?

Anonymous said...

Seems hard to determine anything conclusively. My guess it was probably Thomas Clark first, since his poem/book looks like it was published in 2004 (, and the earliest I could find so far for Francis Alys was an exhibition he had in London from 2004-2005 ( It would make sense that Alys might possibly quote a recent poem about walking for his walking art exhibit. But Alys keeps being credited with the quote himself, in all the articles and books about his work, without reference to where it actually originated, whether it was somewhere in his work or elsewhere, like Clark.