Rice drying along the Nakasendo — an ancient walk in the mountains of Japan

A need to walk

How and why we walk and how to walk better

Craig Mod
The Message
Published in
8 min readOct 31, 2014

by Craig Mod

Walking intrigues the deskbound. We romanticize it, but do we do it justice? Do we walk properly? Can one walk improperly and, if so, what happens when the walk is corrected?

Walking moves or settles the mind — allowing for self discovery. “I can only meditate when I’m walking,” said Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Aristotle is well cited as a peripatetic lecturer. The French contemporarily frame the literary walker with flâneur. Steve Jobs tore up the streets of Old Palo Alto in deep conversation. Moses famously parted an entire sea to take a walk with a few friends.

There is an art and history to walking and walking well. “To walk for hours on a clear night is the largest experience we can have” writes Thomas Clark in his poem, In Praise of Walking. He was speaking of countryside walks beneath the stars. But a night walk in a city also brings with it its own great pleasures. Rebecca Solnit writes in Wanderlust, “Cities have always offered anonymity, variety, and conjunction, qualities best basked in by walking.”

Mysteries are presented to the walker — the floating sound of a guitar above, screen door murmurs, cats frozen, baths splashing, the far off buzz of a motorcycle. Mysteries sometimes answered, more often serving only as ballast for the flitting narratives of the walker mind.

Yet the ability to safely walk alone, especially at night, is, for most cities, largely a luxury available only to men (and even then, there are always parts to be avoided). Which is why Tokyo night walks are especially alluring and evocative, seemingly a societal miracle — a city nearly devoid of violent crime, almost no back alley or poorly lit path is off limits. It’s one of the few, true, metropolitan spaces where the right to a safe walk is a nearly universal, indiscriminate, day or night, red light or financial district alike.

Elizabeth, the protagonist in Lynne Tillman’s No Lease on Life, limits her walks to a few blocks in the East Village of Manhattan. Still, that doesn’t keep her from traveling in the mind, small details blossoming into panoramas:

Elizabeth opened her door and walked down the stairs. The halls were even bleaker in the middle of the night…



Craig Mod
The Message

Probably walking on a mountain … http://craigmod.com