What is a constitutional ? It’s an old time expression referring to one’s vitality, health and strength. Often a purposeless walk for some fresh air and limited exercise for one’s general well being. Over exertion is not encouraged.
The covid 19 pandemic has wreaked havoc with capitalism around the world. It has changed the evening constitutional in a positive way and I am now cherishing these night time wanders around my district. Our population is heeding the exhortation to stay at home and as such our night time suburban streets are filled with the quiet of a small country town. Early on, when daylight saving was still alive there were many people out wandering after their dinner, but since the return to normal time the streets are vacant after dark. Traffic noise, that normally backgrounds the landscape is non existent, noisy neighbours and loud music playing from cars or houses is bygone.
We are now in the easter week, and a full moon decorates the evening sky. I am seeing both ring tail and brushtail possums emerging from their daylight hiding places and doing their fancy trapeze work over powerlines to trees. As I descend into gullies I can feel the change of temperature and hear the sweet song of frogs in darkened water bodies. I still notice the light pollution, too much precious energy is wasted on keeping lights on for the people who are not around to use it. Some dogs are being walked by masters who have giant headphones on without wires. The poor dog. How does he communicate with his master? Are we breeding a generation of dogs that in the future will exhibit security and detachment issues that will require years of therapy.
Then of course we have the earthlings that walk with smartphones out in front of them at a non rhythmic pace doing god knows what. The evening constitutional is not about taking your phone for a walk. It is not a good look and for those guilty of it consider yourself chastened. The evening constitutional is everything else. It’s deliberate breathing, it’s going in a direction you may not have been before, it’s about discovery of your neighborhood, maybe a chat with the old bloke at the end of the road, maybe a pat of the leashed dog on the end of the big pair of headphones.
In any case this is a special time in our history. This will all be over soon enough and the din of capitalism will once again return. Enjoy the respite and take an evening constitutional.
– The Provost
Flâneur in English is via French from the Old Norse verb flana “to wander with no purpose”. Flânerie then is indeed core business for the Order of Walkers and this post is merely a highlight of this historical french practise as written on wikipedia. I suspect the clandestine “Wander Society” would also draw upon its principles.
Appraise yourself with the practise.
Do a keyword search on “the wander society” and your first hit will be the book by Kerri Smith. You will then stumble upon an obscure black and white site. At some point you’ll be watching a vimeo video and for the next few days you’ll be processing what the hell it is you stumbled upon and whether you are a fit.
Suppose it is a construct, and you have been drawn in. It’s no scam. There is no money involved. It feels like a watersmeet of literature and walking which then becomes a confluence of philosophy and spirituality. That talk of a secret society puts you all at sea.
The book is on my reading list and whilst I have not gone there yet, there is a synchronicity in stride with the Order of Walkers.
This question sits with the Order of Walkers. Even after a most difficult walk and the passage of time, we are drawn to a new invitation to wander.
I am presenting a response by Norman Richards of the Melbourne Bushwalkers in the 1953 edition no 4 of the “Walk” magazine. Not much has changed.
This is a question that has been worrying most walkers ever since they first got the idea of going out of doors and spending their leisure time in such an abnormal manner. The walking, mountaineering and camping journals of the world have all published contributions by people trying to do themselves justice by explaining their actions to a doubting world. It is human nature to be interested in the logical justification of one’s actions, especially when, as in the case of bush- walking, the rigors of the game often by no means make for personal comfort.
Many good reasons have been advanced. For some the lure is purely and simply the desire for physical exercise, either for its own sake or for the physical fitness which ensues. There can be no doubt of the sense of well-being invoked by steady exercise taken in the fresh, clear air of the hills. There is also the satisfaction to be derived from the self-reliance essential for a trip in a remote area. Others are attracted by the companionship to be found on the track. No matter what your vocation or station in everyday life, once you join a walking party you get a new start; you are accepted for yourself. The pleasures of camp life away from all reminders of your ordinary existence cannot be under-estimated. Companionable sing-songs around the campfire leave many happy memories, as do days spent just soaking up the sunshine, or maybe paddling around the quiet pools of some mountain stream. The clock, although it still exists, ceases to dominate; where at home seconds are important, in the bush the unit of time can quite easily be the hour, or at worst the half-hour. Then, too, many people praise the charms of the scenery to be found away from the motor roads when one has the leisure provided by travelling per Shank’s pony. Especially in Australia where most of our scenery is not publicised but needs seeking out, does this leisureliness pay dividends of enjoyment. To us is often given the privilege of seeing things that few who do not walk can ever set eyes upon. If ever they should be able to drive over our routes we would know that the very road they travel changes the scene we knew. Finally, there are some who have been accused, often with some justice, of being attracted by the paraphernalia and gadgetry which some manage to introduce into their walking; the desire of the juvenile mind for fancy dress.
Any of the above reasons may be sufficient in some cases, but really most of us respond in part to a synthesis of them all, although there are many who do not waste time thinking about the matter at all; they walk because they enjoy doing so. Let’s all just enjoy it, and maybe in that way we’ll really get the most from our walks. The real enjoyment of a walking trip does not lend itself to logical analysis; in it there is much of the spiritual. Bushwalking demands an act of faith; we must put forth the effort before we can know that there is any reward. Once having made the effort we have no doubts. We just enjoy our walking.