Walking the Southwest Coast Path

Day 26
Falmouth to Portloe 13.5 miles

Thoreau, in Walking (what I consider his deepest and most significant essay) tells us that the requisite capital necessary for taking a walk are leisure, freedom, and independence. He also claims that “the Highest we can attain to (from taking a walk as he speaks to the calling) is not Knowledge, but Sympathy with Intelligence”. These are the thoughts I ponder often when walking, and most deeply so when doing a long walk such as this one.
There is an intelligence that exists within the land that can speak to us if we but listen; as there likewise is an intelligence that exists within the Earth. There are many calling today for us to pay greater heed to what the Earth is trying to communicate in these times, yet few have articulated a personal daily discipline so readily available for doing so as Thoreau. Walking, that distinctly human bipedal capacity, is so much more that taking exercise for Thoreau, for it is what transports him to the “holy lands” in all his sauntering. We have attained great knowledge beyond measure for certain today, yet the first stirrings of any sympathy to a higher intelligence is quickly fading from our collective picture! Indigenous peoples and those with long standing connections to the land retain glimpses of this sympathy, but even here we fail to make connections because we take it in as primitive and outdated knowledge. Not Intelligence.
The stories which the land communicates, if actually heard, are often cast as the dreams and fantasies of those who idly ramble the landscape, stealing time from real work, and fall within the ranks of pretenders, idlers, and vagabonds – much like many of Thoreau’s fellow townsmen ranked him. These “stories”, like the often misrepresented understanding of the word “myth”, become synonymous with untruth, or very tall tales, and pass into the wind without penetrating our deeper consciousness. Yet the winds are gathering these days, and the times are calling!
Our walk through Cornwall has been one where we have felt murmurings from this landscape, and although we are but passing through, there is a wildness here that rings deep. There is a rich storehouse of stories existing here that we will hope to gather and ponder long after our walk has completed itself, for the digesting process goes on long after the meal is done. The “wildness” here though, I believe, is the voice from deep within ourselves that one hears when we experience the stillness possible within each moment if attentive to it. It is work, but that is truly the adventure of the day when going for a walk as Thoreau communicates it, and why we believe that youth need more adventures and less schooling.

Our walk today started with a ferry crossing out of Falmouth over to Place, then it was a delightful day wandering coves, secret gardens, and open Cornish coastlines. We are trying to get as much of the Cornish magic and wildness into ourselves before passing back into Devon!

2 thoughts on “Walking the Southwest Coast Path

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