You can't really own land until you've paced it off, stride by stride, on foot. Flying above or driving across just doesn't hack it. Without slow, direct contact there's no proper sense of scale, no depth of perception, no personal connection. You may have a deed, a title to a property --- but in a subtle way it's still not yours until you touch it. On the other hand, somebody who has no legal claim to a piece of earth can nevertheless "own" it, far more than any absentee landlord, simply by walking it often enough.

In that mystical sense, then, during the past year my cosmos has suddenly grown by a factor of more than a hundred. I never used to stroll more than a mile from home. I would venture out to a park or a grocery store or some other well-defined local goal. Along the way I tended not to pay attention to my surroundings. The endpoint was what counted, not the journey to get there. A decade ago when a friend's husband (FH) walked to our house one day from his home about six miles away, I was dumbfounded. Such a trek was beyond my comprehension.

Now, thanks to four seasons of jogging, there's an invisible spiderweb that binds the extended neighborhood to me, out to a radius of a dozen miles in most directions. As I drive along I'm constantly crossing threads of that web and getting startled by the geo-memories: "we're at the midpoint of the Marathon in the Parks"; "there's the path to the old Georgetown Branch railway trestle"; "my legs really cramped up right here last November"; "see that trail between those two trees? --- take it about five miles south and you're at the music school, then a little farther downhill and you join the Marine Corps Marathon route, which gets you to ..."; and so forth.

It's like the poems at the end of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit and the beginning of The Lord of the Rings:

Roads go ever ever on,
   Over rock and under tree,
By caves where never sun has shone,
   By streams that never find the sea;
Over snow by winter sown,
   And through the merry flowers of June,
Over grass and over stone,
   And under mountains in the moon.

Note that JRRT's "roads" are pathways, to be traversed not by motor vehicles but by pedestrians.

And besides a web to bind the land to me, and expand my boundaries, the footsore plodding that I've done has rather effectively helped me begin to bind my self. It's given me a healthier attitude about stress, and has started to break me free of some bad habits --- especially certain severe impatiences, obsessions, and the like. I've got a long way to go yet on those trails ...

(see also GeoMemory (17 May 2001), WalkAbout (9 Mar 2002), InvisibleWeb (8 Dec 2002), AnacostiaTributaries (28 Jan 2003), ForestPrimevalPedestrian (9 May 2003), WelcomeToTheClub (11 Jun 2003), ...)

TopicRunning - TopicPersonalHistory - 2003-06-26

(correlates: StreetSongs, Mooning Jane Eyre, TwoFaces, ...)