Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Shank's mare

For many years, towards the end of my teaching career, I offered a course called The Naturalist. We never met in a classroom, unless it was raining. We availed ourselves of the wonderful natural environments of the Stonehill campus. We walked. We learned what we could of plants, animals, geology, sky. We read the works of celebrated nature writers. And we wrote. Small classes, limited to a dozen students, all self-motivated. I won't speak for the students, but I learned a lot. Nothing like smart young people to keep one on one's toes.

At the end of each class, we published a journal of nature writing, called Terraforma, featuring something from every student. It's been ten years now since I retired and our final offering.

Well, this past semester a new young professor named Stephen Siperstein offered a course in Nature Writing and revived Terraforma. It was lovely to see it resurrected from oblivion. And lovely too to see that the young writers are as talented as ever.

Let me comment on just one of the contributions: an essay on walking. Specifically, different tempos of walking. Swaying. Scurrying. Ambling. Skulking. Running. Tripping. Meandering. Wandering. Standing. The author gives each its due. As I read, it was hard not to think of Thoreau, who was a connoisseur of walking. He wrote about it, of course. He practiced it as a fine art. He skulked. He ambled. He sauntered. In the time it would take him as a laborer to earn the fare to Fitchburg on the railroad, he could walk the distance. And he did. Enjoying every footstep of the way.

Keep walking Casey. It's not just transportation. It's education.