Erling Kagge is a contemporary Norwegian author, explorer, art collector, publisher, entrepreneur, politician, and the first person to have completed on foot the Three Poles Challenge―the North Pole, the South Pole, and the summit of Mount Everest. In his book of micro essays Walking: One Step At A Time, Kagge reports how he places one foot in front of the other, embarking on a journey of discovery as he wanders―always with a sense of awe.
“Walking sometimes means undertaking an inner voyage of discovery. You are shaped by buildings, faces, signs, weather and the atmosphere. Maybe we were made to walk, also in cities? Walking as a combination of movement, humility, balance, curiosity, smell, sound, light and―if you walk far enough―longing. A feeling which reaches for something, without finding it. The Portuguese and Brazilians have an untranslatable word for this longing: saudade. It is a word that encompasses love, pain, and happiness. It can be thought of as something joyful that disturbs you, or something disturbing that brings you plenitude.”
I look up the word and discover saudade was once described as “the love that remains” after someone is gone. “Saudade is the recollection of feelings, experiences, places, or events that once brought excitement, pleasure, well-being, which now triggers the senses and makes one live again,” Wikipedia says.
The word does feel impossible to translate. Perhaps there is a word corresponding to it in Japanese or German. I don’t believe there is one in English. Or in Turkish, my mother tongue. This word, saudade, vibrates like an invisible vessel full to the brim with a mixture of sad and happy feelings―the sadness and emptiness one feels when missing someone, something, a place, or a moment in time, and the happiness of being able to recall and re-experience the past. Once again.
The incurable translator in me is intrigued. I stop reading and start making a mental list of all the words in English used for describing how one walks: stroll, strut, flounder, falter. Saunter, swagger, wade, waddle. Careen, pace, footslog, meander. Lurch, limp, tiptoe, lumber. Mosey, mince, march, ramble. It must be a long, long list. I’m late for my appointment. I need to stop. As I hurry down the street, the warm, end-of-May breeze blows the scent of freshly-mowed grass, rocketing me back to who knows when. Which way of walking would best match a state of saudade, I can’t help but wonder.
“I made the wall of shadow draw back,
beyond desire and act, I walked on.”
— PABLO NERUDA
YOUR WRITING PROMPT:
Today, write about walking.
What memory does the act of walking evoke? What was a time when you loved (or hated) walking? What was a walk you took with someone you’ll never forget? When was walking about longing? What does the metaphor of walking―or its synonyms―conjure up for you? What about some phrases and idioms that come to mind almost instantly―“sleepwalking” or “walk of life”?
Set your timer for 10 minutes and go!
No judging, no stopping. Keep your pen moving (or your fingers typing) no matter where this prompt takes you in your freewriting this week.
By the way, you can always find more writing ideas in the library of writing prompts I created