Whither and Whether a’Saunter: An Enquiry

Best Workout: Hiking

The following text was related to the author by one Henry David Melville.

Here in the bowels of a town forever on the doorstep of tomorrow, a comfort trap lies for the unwary. That comfort takes the form of a simple chair; the trap is remaining in it. At breakfast and supper, while traveling, at worship in the pub or church, even at work—the modern Seattleite, a subspecies of the hubriligious Americanus, spends his days at rest upon buttocked flesh pillows, gazing upon a world at which he giggles but dares not enter. Industrious innovators conspire to support him in this quest to laze, producing a never-ending stream of convenience-saving gadgets. Why walk when you can ride? Why visit when you can text? Indeed, our indomitable indoorsman might ask: If you can appear, why be?

One would do well to get a-walking, if one wishes to wrest oneself from these chattering doldrums. Seek ye congress with thy insoluble self? Crane your craven neck heavenward, lift the damp tip of your nose from your phone, forsake the vulgar enlightenment of the electronic hive mind, and steer your locomotors a course toward the nearest park-worn path.

Ah. There! A humble line of mulch winds serpentine into the treescape, providing an escape to the perambulator who would fain skedaddle from concrete. Plant your dainty toes into the cool soil of this nature reserve and proceed amid the tamed wild. The fiery glare of Apollo is shielded behind a canopy of green; the open, distant, empty blue sky is but a backdrop for eruptions of swaying leaves that caress the sides and heads of passersby. Attend upstart roots and vicious brambles—a body may tumble down these hills as easily as the slid logs that founded this city. March on. Tire your legs, blister your feet, sweat like a leaky faucet until the juice of your labors soaks through cotton clothes and you’re as damp and odiferous as a newborn. No matter. You are now a pilgrim of a noble and ancient order: the blind seekers who stumble, then find anew. Heal your body with a pause and a pull of Washington’s trademark herb. Then keep to the climb, mortal.

Here we are—the peak. Look west to see the past: blue mountains, their pyramid peaks pointing to the firmament above like an instruction: “Rise.” Below them, the choppy gray expanse of the Sound. The tumescent rumps of Safeco and CenturyLink fields bulge pathetically in the foreground as if to say “Us too!”

Look east and see the future: Bellevue, where one’s wallet is a passport and the police are as trim as the lawns. The city of Microsoft is a glittering, human-made forest best seen from the distance, both ornament and omen.

Now close your eyes and look inward. What shape do you see there? Fix your inner stare upon it, for that is a reflection that no looking glass or black mirror can capture. Beneath the painted masks we wear and live in is something that does not change simply with perspective. It is the self—and pity to the fool who forgets its shape and limits. You may work, yet you are not a worker; consume, but are not a consumer. Do what you will—eat, fart, read, fuck, or smirk—but you remain what you are, whatever that might be.

Walk these heady, tended trails with an eye to catch that ineffable soulstuff, lest ye forget it. In the cityscape below, the atmosphere is filled with the dream—our dream, the collective one we all share and over which we bicker. It’s about who we are and what things mean. Wallow too long inside the guts of civilization and the dream gets inside of you. I know of only one remedy: a walk in the woods.

Mistake me not, o Emerald Citizens! I do not ask you to abandon your solemn posts. What would a city be without its spinners of news, signs, and meth? How could we live, if not by scrambling like vermin through this concrete and cybernetic maze, our lives built of emoticons and quiet desperation? Few possess the courage and madness required to live honestly inside our collective dream, and for those who do, a jail bed awaits.

But remember that you live in a metropolis wherein are patches of well-kept wilderness, a series of humane human zoos crisscrossed by trails to ensaunter and covered in trees to muffle the whine of nearby sirens and jet planes. Scurry, my friends, scurry back up to those clarifying peaks, wherever the opportunity may present. Wipe the sand from your dreamy eyes, breathe deep the billowing fumes of oxygen, and see yourself and your world as they really are. And then try not to run into that oblivious kid playing PokeGo on your way back.


Read about the rest of the Best of Seattle Reader Poll winners here. If you didn’t get a chance to vote this go-round, make sure your voice is heard next year. Email us at bestofseattle@seattleweekly.com and we will let you know when nominations open for BoS 2017.