More on walking and nature writing in an urban environment

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Michael McColly sends this response to last week’s post on walking and writing:

I've been reading a lot of Thoreau lately, as well as many other so-called "nature" writers.  A description that turns off people for some reason, thinking that these writers are marginal and bourgeois, interested in ants and trees at the expense of people and politics or post-modern themes of power and perception. How wrong.  Most of the good nature writers like Thoreau, Muir, Borroughs, Dillard, Solnit, McPhee, McKibben, etc are very much interested in how critical sensual experiences in nature are to the health of the mind and body and most importantly to human society and its future.  One serious problem that should be leveled against some nature/environmental writing is that authors are not always aware of the vital importance of education and access for people who are left out of these experiences because they have not been given exposure to the joys and wonder of exploring nature and its effects on the body. Many people here in Chicago don't have access to a glorious lakefront or even feel comfortable in a woods or in a canoe or walking. Walking to them is a drudgery, humiliation, and not even exercise, let alone a chance to be alone and relieve stress. How do you relieve stress in a neighborhood of boarded over houses and empty lots filled with trash knowing that you could get accidentally caught in gang fire out of the blue? 

The numbers of writers who discuss walking or have stories about walking as it relates to their creative process is absolutely stunning. A rich subject in itself. Perception is an old subject for poets and writers.

McColly is working on a book about walking from a Chicago neighborhood all the way to Indiana, and will be posting on his blog about walking, yoga, and the urban environment. And he particularly recommends reading Rebecca Solnit's Wanderlust: A History of Walking.