I did something today
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Apr 07 2002 Kelly Norton
I did something today that I can scarcely find time for anymore; I walked. Nearly five miles I walked, and most of that time I stared at the ground ahead of me not at all interested in my surroundings, which was adorned with the homes of the rich and corpulent. Instead, I remained focused on unraveling several preoccupying threads that have for some time hung inside my head. They were all trivial matters, like why weeks ago a series of affine transforms applied to a set of points in a plane had produced an unexpected result. At the time, I had merely rearranged them more according to intuition than analytics. It was a simple matter easily solved. I turned my attention to several similar problems and had contented myself that all "serious" matters had been satisfied before reaching the golf course. The remaining four miles were spent in the company of whirling random thoughts and visions. This was the way I spent my miles in high school training for the road race season; this is perhaps the state that would have earned me the title saunterer, by Thoreau:
They who never go to the Holy Land in their walks, as they pretend, are indeed mere idlers and vagabonds; but they who do go there are suanterers in the good sense, such as I mean.
I, of course, can never remember anything specifically that Thoreau said while I walk except for a couple of completely unrelated quotations on Nature (the one that begins with a capital letter).
Of all the places, I have walked in my life, Atlanta is the worst. So much of the conscious is consumed in navigating the terrain that ideas are lost before they can be thoroughly explored. You seldom find a sidewalk that persists the length of even the most insignificant thought. There are always cars careening too close to your knees, which bring to mind the frailty of the human frame, and there is the health walker who will always seem suspicious enough of a young man walking without the proper attire to prompt a nerve-calming "hello" or even a more elaborate exchange of platitudes not at all pleasant to either involved. Near the golf course, for instance, I was forced to prepare a statement for a golfer whose ball had gone so far astray that he was clicking across the street in his spiked shoes. He remained suspicious as I passed, and it took the better part of half a mile to silence the perpetual playback of our minute conversation. This is not the land where one can wend out through the fields and the woods. That quote escaped me as well. It seems to have gone something like:
Out through the fields and the woods
    And over the walls I have wended;
It hardly matters, it will escape me again if I ever I find the opportunity to walk. Perhaps, North of Boston there are walks without distraction.
After three miles, I began to speculate the future. If I were to move, where would it be? Would it afford a unique environment for a walk, which would seem unimportant when so seldom done, but when you walk you feel as if it is quite probable that you will never stop. In fact, we may have only Nature's affinity for cycles to thank for returning us home from such a walk. Otherwise, we might spend our entire lives speculating, passing cows on old dirt roads, and always preparing to "send back our embalmed hearts only as relics of our desolate kingdom." The whirling thoughts always end suddenly at the front door.
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