One Step at a Time

As we walk outside these days, safely maintaining a 2 metre distance, erring on the side of caution, keeping away from those doing the same, I share excerpts from a recent article by Erling Kagge in Maclean’s Magazine, “Coronavirus: Walking is our only respite”. Kagge is author of Walking: One Step At a Time and Silence: In the Age of Noise. He was the first man to ever walk to the North and South Poles.

“To be quarantined, as we have been in Norway since the middle of March, reminds me about the silence on my expeditions in the Polar regions, how time slows down and the world changes when we walk. Because the world expects us to be available at all times, grounding yourself in nature can be hard.

I forget about it sometimes, and when I look around, I get the feeling that many people forget about it all the time, too. Mother Earth is more than four billion years old, so it seems arrogant to me when we don’t listen to her and instead blindly place our trust in human invention. 

The last weeks have been different. In my Oslo suburban neighbourhood I have again started to listen to nature. If you listen closely, you’ll hear that the air, the birds, the earth, the wind, the sun, the trees and the horizon have their own language and consciousness. It tells us where we come from and what may lay on the road ahead . . .

While having to spend every day in Oslo and being isolated from my fellow Norwegians I have rediscovered that we can do these inner voyages of discovery everywhere. You are shaped by buildings, faces, signs, asphalt, weather and the atmosphere. Even if I walk on the same pavements and pedestrian zones where I walked the day before at the same hour, everything has changed. Some people I observe across the years and can see how they have aged through the spring in their step. Each new day that I walk, the oak trees have changed slightly, the paintings on the sides of buildings have faded a tiny bit more, and the faces that met me only 24 hours earlier have grown older. The changes are too small to notice on a daily basis. It all takes place much too slowly, but because I walk, I know that it’s happening.

Walking is a combination of movement, humility, balance, curiosity, smell, sound, light, inner silence and—if you walk far enough—longing. A feeling which reaches for something, without finding it. The Portuguese, Cape Verdeans and Brazilians have an untranslatable word for this longing: saudade. It is a word that encompasses love, pain and happiness. It can be the thought of something joyful that disturbs you, or something disturbing that brings you plenitude. 

It is about finding your own South Pole.”