As a kid, I had a reputation for pacing the backyard, talking to myself. I’d carry a book in my hands sometimes, pretending to read out loud, when really, I wasn’t looking at a single word on the page. I just didn’t want people to think I was totally crazy. (Yup, even at 6 or 7, I knew wandering around outside and talking to myself was frowned upon by modern society.)
I was actually making up elaborate stories, and I found talking them out to be way more satisfying than attempting to write them down; my hands couldn’t keep up with the string of thoughts hurtling through my mind, and this way, I could revise, edit and alter my plot without bothering with an eraser or obsessing over word choice. (Yes, these are things I actually struggled with as an elementary schooler. I’ve always been a storyteller…and a bizarre child.)
Given my history, Keri Smith’s The Wander Society immediately called to me when I saw it on the freebie table at work. The premise immediately gripped me: The author finds cryptic writing in the margin of a used copy of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, leading her to an anonymous group that uses wandering and exploring as methods to reconnect with nature, with themselves and the world at large. I was a little bummed to learn that the Society itself isn’t real — at least, it wasn’t until Smith invented it, for the book, it seems — but that doesn’t diminish its message, or its potential to become a movement.
Joining is simple: You just decide to spend some time wandering, silencing your cell phone and exploring an area near you. There are no group meetings or official tasks (though the book encourages you to create zines, wheatpaste posters and little messages that you hide, geocache-style, for other Wanderers to find).
The book features a series of activities to help you get your wander on. Here are three favorites:
- Psychogeography — Grab a map of your town and open it up. Place a cup somewhere on it and trace the mouth of the cup, forming a circle. Explore that area fully.
- Color Tracking — Choose one color in particular, then go for a walk and look for any objects in that color. Log what you find.
- Library Wandering — Head to your nearest library, and ask the librarian what his/her favorite book is. Read that. Or pick up a book you love and look at the bibliography. Pick a book listed there and read it.
Basically, the whole goal is to look at the ordinary — the things you take for granted, as you fly through your to-do list and other obligations — in a whole new light.
As The Wander Society says, Solvitur Ambulando! (It is solved by walking!)
This post is part of Life Between Weekends’ Tuesday Takeaway series. Every Tuesday, we’ll share the most compelling insight we’ve gleaned from a book, movie, tour, documentary or article to inspire you during the workday.