I have given up mass media. Or at least most of them. The screaming headlines, the mindless banter, the search for the bad in everything—it has put me in sour spirit. I am therefore fasting, something that seems utterly appropriate in this Lenten season. The quiet has turned my attention to walking. Alone.
A walk alone is a sacred gift to oneself. This is true whether it be a walk around the block or a walk in an exotic, faraway place. Walking with friends and lovers is a delight. Walking alone is a commune with spirit.
One of the first things I must do when traveling is to walk. Faraway cities become my own only when I discover them on foot. By myself. Chatter can destroy a walk. Once, in Venice, I was strolling and talking with a friend about something trivial. Five minutes later I realized that I'd missed Venice along the way.
Upon occasion, one must travel forth alone in the quiet of solitude. There is no substitute. Smells, sounds, the private discoveries of all that is wonderful—all take on new meaning when alone. One can bring these discoveries back to companions afterwards. Communal enjoyment then has its own pleasures. But the actual discovery, the moment of sublime awareness—that must happen alone. My shadowy mood reminds me of a wonderful moment in the film, A Room with a View. Eleanor Lavish is walking in Florence with Charlotte Bartlett. She suddenly proclaims:
The smell. A true Florentine smell. Inhale my dear. Deeper. Every city, let me tell you, has its own smell.
Inhale deeply, indeed!