Walking Wild the Soul

(Waubonsie morning Saunter, photo by Michelle Miller)

Walking as a school of thought.

The Naturalist School is a learning community, a school of thought, and a way of walking wildly in the way of Henry David Thoreau, Matsuo BashoAnnie Dillard, Mary Oliver, Robin Kimmerer, Gary Snyder, and a host of poets, writers, naturalists, philosophers, and scientists in the walking tradition.

Hidden Valley HNC

At the heart of our school is Sauntering, a way of walking described in the journals of Thoreau and in his essay “Walking.” A Saunter is a way of walking in wild places that creates space within ourselves as nature opens before us. It is for the nourishment of body and soul. Our method of sauntering seeks to deepen native intimacy and contemplation of nature.

The adventure of the day.

“But the walking of which I speak has nothing in it akin to taking exercise, as it is called, as the sick take medicine at stated hours,–as the swinging of dumb-bells or chairs; but is itself the enterprise and adventure of the day. If you would get exercise, go in search of the springs of life. Think of a man’s swinging dumb-bells for his health, when those springs are bubbling up in far-off pastures unsought by him!”                                        Thoreau, “Walking.”

On the path to mystery

Sauntering is the adventure of the day; it is rugged yet contemplative, and physically and mentally challenging. The philosophical groundwork for this way of walking was laid in Thoreau’s essays, books, and journals. But a clear method for others to follow was not articulated, and Thoreau himself saw the need for a rubric for sauntering.

On May 1st, 1857, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau went for a walk in the woods to heal a rift in their friendship. Emerson envisioned a new collaboration: “We will make a book on walking, ’tis certain, & have easy lessons for beginners. Walking in Ten Lessons.”

Ralph and Henry never wrote such a book. So the task fell to Jack Phillips. Beginning with small groups of foresters in Canada, Jack began to create a method of teaching centered around walking in the way of Thoreau. After years and miles of sauntering with small and diverse groups throughout the continent, Jack produced a primer. A Pocket Guide to Sauntering* states that “A saunter, properly undertaken, explores inner landscapes as well as the terrain being traversed. It is introspective while being shaped by the lay of the land.”

Our schedule is updated seasonally and weekly to take advantage of local phenologies and weather. Please note that TNS Saunters are intended for adults and are not suitable for children or dogs.

Sauntering Badger Ridge

For more information and a schedule of upcoming Saunters, contact Jack Phillips at thenaturalistschool@gmail.com.

**Please note that TNS Saunters are intended for adults and are not suitable for children or dogs unless indicated.

Photos by Robert Smith.