Women Walking: Book Thoughts

I’m happy to report I have a much lower degree of hitch in my git-along than I did the last time I posted. I still have to be mindful of how I move while doing certain tasks, but I can take walks again. I have even been on my bicycle. You may ask, what does an avid ambler do while sidelined? She reads about walking, of course!

I will read almost anything about walking and almost anything about women empowering themselves. I found a great combination of the two themes in Wanderers, a History of Women Walking by Kerri Andrews.

Andrews focuses on women who have written about their walking experiences. Some figures were familiar to me — Anais Nin, Virginia Woolf. Others were new introductions. I was particularly interested to learn of Dorothy Wordsworth, who exhilarated in day-long walks of twenty miles or more, and was every bit as accomplished as her brother William. I want to know more about her. I’m also planning to look up the work of Linda Cracknell. In fact, Wanderers grew my to-read list quite a bit.

In addition to profiling ten other women, Andrews also shares some of her own adventures in the mountains of Scotland and elsewhere. She was able to retrace a few of the walks mentioned by women who came before her, exploring her feelings as she follows their footsteps.

She adds a lot of context, too, about women’s lives in different locations and time periods, speaking of the challenges that kept, and still too often keep, our existences restricted. William Wordsworth was usually free to pick up and go at a moment’s notice, while his sister was tied down with domestic chores. And then there have been societal expectations on women’s behavior, plus the extra threats women face when striking out alone. Walking is great medicine, but it’s one some of us have to work for more than others.

I want to finish with a special note of appreciation for the author’s words about the value of walking and re-walking the same routes again and again. Doing this myself has turned out to be one of the most profoundly spiritual practices of my life.

Book Thoughts: The World is Full of A**holes

One of my writing buddies has a new book out. The World is Full of A**holes is a picture book for adults, and one that’s just what I needed at this point in time. It was written by K.L. Harris and illustrated by Nik Henderson, with the art and words complementing each other wonderfully.

Picture books for adults is a trend I’ve noticed over the last few years. I like it. I mean, I’ve been known to lose myself in 800-page tomes without illustrations and find it a satisfying experience. But sometimes, especially for deeply felt issues, going back to the format of a simply-delivered message is an effective salve. A poetic reminder that the world is full of assholes but that there are ways to deal with them and to keep from being them is the equivalent of a nudge to remember to drink enough water and to make sure I’m getting a little exercise on the regular. Basic messages and steps that make a huge difference in life.

The playful wording makes the book fun to read. When Harris lists the places and ways we might encounter assholes in our daily lives — “Assholes can be doctors, teachers, or people scooping ice cream” — the illustrations rely mostly on grim color combinations. But things lighten up considerably when the author pivots to the topic of guardians, “People who’ll speak up when you’re not treated right.” The world is full of those, too.