In the popular memoir-turned-film, Wild, Cheryl Strayed takes off to hike the Pacific Coast Trail. The unflinchingly transparent narration conveys how her determined but naïve aspirations to embark on the trek evolve into a physical and mental capacity to finish it. She remarks on the sense of wonder catalyzed by walking:
It had nothing to do with gear or footwear or the backpacking fads or philosophies of any particular era or even with getting from point A to point B. It had to do with how it felt to be in the wild. With what it was like to walk for miles with no reason other than to witness the accumulation of trees and meadows, mountains and deserts, streams and rocks, rivers and grasses, sunrises and sunsets. The experience was powerful and fundamental. It seemed to me that it had always felt like this to be a human in the wild, and as long as the wild existed it would always feel this way.
Strayed’s words suggest that our feet are vital for taking the world in, that we lose this sense of gradual wonder when we trade for the convenience of a car. It’s a lesson I’ve understood most of my life, when as a five-year-old suburbanite, I first pounded the urban pavement with my father.
My dad has a matter-of-fact joy as he strides around city streets—an emotion not apparent when he’s driving or taking the subway or hailing a cab. I remember marching around the uneven San Francisco sidewalks with him during Christmastime, pleading to take a break. His response: “Morgan. It’s just walking.”
Using my feet as my primary means of transportation has been a learned passion. More than crooning praise songs or highlighting Bible verses, it’s been a key way that my relationship ...1
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