Bessie Sullivan: Hello, I’m Bessie Sullivan from the Haliburton County Public Library and this is Library Moments. Once a week some of us from the library will come and talk about books, upcoming events, or the services we offer at the library.
Walking is good for us. As our culture evolves, we sometimes forget the basics. In the past people walked to get around, they walked to the store, to work and anywhere else they needed to go. Of course through time local stores closed and our jobs got further and further away from where we live. Now something that used to be integrated into our daily lives must be thought out and planned for. There is an immediate concern that our sedentary lifestyle of today is harming our health more than we can possibly imagine.
Today on Library Moments Sue Shikaze from the Haliburton Kawartha Pine Ridge District Health Unit, Erin Kernohan-Berning, and I will talk about books that focus on the act of walking.
Sue Shikaze, HKPR District Health Unit: As a Health Promoter, I am interested in books that discuss public health issues in new and interesting lights. Walking is an activity that we promote widely for its health benefits. In “Born to Walk”, Ottawa-based author Dan Rubenstein explores the ways that the simple act of walking can be transformative for both individuals and societies. Walking is something done by people of all ages, cultures and class, all around the world, for all sorts of reasons. Rubenstein is a self-described “obsessive walker”, and to research this book, he spoke and walked with people throughout Canada, the U.S. and Europe who saw walking not only as a form of transportation or recreation, but as a path to a better world. In Born to Walk, he details the multiple benefits of walking across eight realms: body, mind, society, economy, politics, creativity, spirit and family.
Walking is great for our bodies and brains; it reduces risk of chronic diseases such as Type 2 Diabetes, heart disease, and may delay onset of dementia. Especially when done in nature, walking reduces stress and eases anxiety and depression.
But Rubenstein goes beyond individual benefits of walking and looks at its broader social impacts. More people walking can improve safety and encourage social connection and interaction in communities. Walkable communities encourage economic activity and attract residents and businesses. Viewed this way, everyone benefits from living in places where walking is safe, accessible and commonplace. Rubenstein also explores the long history that walking has in inspiring creative thought, the role of walking in spiritual journeys, and walking as a key part of political and social protest.
Walking is so simple, and so accessible to all of us, and has the potential make such a big difference! This book inspires us to remember that we are indeed ‘Born to Walk’.
Erin Kernohan-Berning, Branch Services Librarian: There are many novels in which walking is highlighted as a physical act of getting the main character from one point to another, as well as a meditative act in which the character uses walking to develop personally. A great example of this is The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce. In The Unlikely Pilgrimage… Harold Fry gets a letter from an old friend, Queenie Hennessy, who is in a hospice dying of cancer. Intending only to walk to the nearest post box to send his reply, Harold keeps walking, embarking on a 627 mile, 87 day journey to say goodbye to Queenie, convinced she won’t die as long as he keeps walking. As he walks he reflects on his life, his marriage, and his relationship with his estranged son, ultimately healing old wounds that had festered for years.
Another example of walking as a physical and personal journey is Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Canadian author Emma Hooper. In the novel, 82 year old Etta wakes up one morning, takes her rifle and some chocolates, and starts to walk. She leaves a note for her husband, Otto saying “I’ve gone. I’ve never seen the water, so I’ve gone there. I will try to remember to come back.” Etta is struggling with dementia as she sets out on the 3,232 kilometer journey from her home in rural Saskatchewan to Halifax where the ocean awaits. While she knows she cannot trust herself to remember, or that what she does remember is true, she knows all she needs to do is put one foot in front of the other.
Bessie: As a culture we are slowly realizing that we must regain the habit of walking, not only for physical benefits but the mental ones as well. The brand new edition of, 1001 walks you must take before you die by Barry Stone features 1,001 carefully selected scenic walks throughout the world in both natural and urban settings–from Africa’s Rift Valley to the Appalachian Trail. According to the promotion for the book, walking is one of our favorite pastimes and one of the easiest–and healthiest–ways to explore the world. It allows walkers to go at their own pace, savor local colors and details, and discover sights that would be missed if in a car or even on a bicycle. The popularity of recreational walking is on the rise with the growing number of trails and the conversion of former canal towpaths and railway lines, like our own rail trail, into mixed-use walkways. Each entry provides essential details about a must-try walk, including start and finish points, overall distance, difficulty rating, maps, and likely duration, making this book an inspiring reference for anyone looking to venture off the beaten path.
So, whether here or abroad… as Sue Shikaze says, “what are you waiting for?? Put on your shoes and go for a walk!” This has been Library Moments, thank-you for listening here on 100.9 CANOE FM.
*Originally aired on 100.9 CANOE FM, July 12 – 18th, 2015.