Everyone needs a “thinking path,” a route to walk to clear one’s head. It could span a few blocks or a few miles, however long one needs. Taking walks not simply for exercise but to stimulate the mind has long been a hallmark of the contemplative sort. Ludwig van Beethoven, Sigmund Freud, Immanuel Kant, John Milton and Charles Dickens all were fond of a daily stroll to liven up their routines. Charles Darwin had his “sandwalk” that wended southwest from his family’s Down House estate to a leased plot of trees; he coursed this path religiously while writing On the Origin of Species and Descent of Man. An article from Natural History magazine (date unknown) describes Darwin’s ritual:
“Soon after settling at Downe, Darwin constructed a sand-covered path, known as the sandwalk, that still winds through the shady woods and then returns toward the house along a sunny, hedge-lined field. He strolled it daily, referring to it as ‘my thinking path.’ Often he would stack a few stones at the path’s entrance, and knock one away with his walking stick on completing each circuit. He could anticipate a ‘three-flint problem,’ just as Sherlock Holmes had ‘three-pipe problems,’ and then head home when all the stones were gone.”
My perambulations are more extemporaneous, less doggedly pragmatic. They vary in length and location; very rarely are they predetermined in any shape or form. I’m a fan of the stroll, the jaunt, the traipse about town. All the better if there are birds and other critters to see en route.