Point A to B and Everything In Between
By Tom Long
Fiddlehead Contributing Editor
Walking isn’t just a way to get from point A to point B; it’s a therapeutic, thought-provoking activity that separates us from our knuckle-dragging ancestors.
One small step. It was bipedalism that allowed us to leap down from trees and use our hands for more demanding tasks, like making tools. This led to larger brains and curiosity, which led our ancestors to travel throughout the world.
Walk it off. According to Inuit custom, an angry person finds release by walking the emotion out of his or her system by striding in a straight line across the landscape and marking the point when the anger is relieved with a stick as an enduring mark of the strength and length of the emotion.
A light dawns. Enlightenment Swiss philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau was one of the first to consider walking as a creative act. “I can only meditate when I am walking. When I stop, I cease to think, my mind only works with my legs,” he wrote in his “Confessions.”
Think about it. There’s a whole school of thought built up around thought-provoking walking called peripatetic philosophy, from the word “one who walks habitually and extensively.”
There’s an art to it. Back in the day, elites traveled by coach or carriage, and the working class had to hoof it. The swells might go for a walk in walled gardens, which separated them from the riff raff. It wasn’t until they left castles for palaces and manor houses that roofed galleries were built to allow walking in poor weather. Art was displayed in the walking galleries to entertain strollers, and those eventually morphed into the art galleries we have today.
Wordy walker. It has been estimated that William Wordsworth, the 19th century “walking poet,” hoofed 175,000 miles in his lifetime. He used the time on foot to compose and revise lines of poetry and sometime would walk backward.
The write stuff. “If I couldn’t walk fast and far, I would perish,” wrote Charles Dickens, who walked as much as 30 miles a day, stalking the streets of London and environs searching for material.
A higher calling. Danish philosopher/theologian Soren Kierkegaard wrote, “I walk for health and salvation.”
Going solo. “One of the pleasantest things in the world is going on a journey; but I like to go by myself. I can enjoy society in a room; but out of doors, nature is company enough for me. I am then never less alone than when alone,” said British essayist William Hazlitt. Wrote in 1822.
Walk this way. “Keep a regular stride, rising on the balls of the toes and not turning the toes out too much. How few people know how to walk well? The secret is to let the shoulder opposite to the advancing foot swing well forward at each step.” – Frank Tatchell, author of the “The Happy Traveller: A Book for Poor Men” in 1925.
And keep an open mind. “All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking,” according to German philosopher Friedrich Nietsche.
In these days of self-distancing, when hiking trails are overloaded and parking lots at the beaches have been closed, we suggest some self-guided local rambles. “Walk fast in the country and stroll about in the towns. And do not march for more than a few minutes with your hat off,” according to “The Happy Traveller.”
The murals of Nashua provide an artsy downtown mosey. Positive Street Art has posted a map of more than a dozen murals throughout the city, portraying everything from Clark Gable and other stars of the golden years of Hollywood, to the volcanoes of Calima and tromp l’oeil storefronts.
Since 2008, the Nashua International Sculpture Symposium has brought artists from all over the world to the Gate City to create new work. A map posted on NashuaSculptureSymposium.org details a two-and-a-half-mile walking loop to view more than two dozen of the works.
Manchester has a self-guided walking tour focusing on the history of the mills in the city. The Manchester by Foot tour begins at the city information center on Elm Street and loops a little over three miles. It is expected to take an hour and a half without stops and three and a half hours if you stop along the way. Points of interest include the mill girl statue that represents the thousands of women who worked in the mills, the Amoskeag mill yard and remains of the canals that harnessed the river.
Visitoncord-nh.com maps has a walking tour, with more than 60 points of interest including of the state Capitol and the State House, the Eagle Hotel, which has been a landmark for more than 150 years, and Phenix Hall, where Teddy Roosevelt once gave a speech.
Meredith has a sculpture walk, and hiking trails. And Exeter has a self-guided walking tour posted on exeterhistory.org that includes the American Independence Museum, Phillips Exeter Academy, and the brick powder house were munitions were stored during the colonial times, when Exeter was wartime capitol of the state.
And Keene boasts 16 murals painted by the Walldogs, an international group of artists who decorate communities with art work depicting a town’s past. Depicted on the sides of buildings throughout the downtown, it takes about an hour to see them.