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Vagabonds and Wanderers and Saunterers

Christmas, 2014, Melanie Mowinski, I will wander.

Next academic year I will be on sabbatical, returning to creative research that while not dormant, definitely not at the forefront of my work right now: the role of walking in creative practice.

Walking as aesthetic practice first occurred to me while serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer on the 68-square-mile Caribbean island of St. Kitts in 1995. Upon my arrival, I walked two miles and two villages away to work, and everywhere else just for exercise. However, as the weeks passed, walking moved into the dimension of creative discipline.  Problems were solved, ideas emerged and certain details took on greater significance. What began as ordinary perception was slowly transformed into writing, drawing and photographs.By the end of my three year commitment, not only was I known as the white lady who walked everywhere, the simple practice of walking was elevated to an essential act of creation as well.

Now, nearly twenty years of walk-spawned projects later, this is still my practice and the time is right for more formal research and higher levels of discovery. As we transition into 2015 and the start of my sabbatical advances, I will be sharing more of my research and plans. Be sure they will include some significant walks.

Christmas, 2014, Melanie Mowinski, I will wander.

Christmas, 2014, Melanie Mowinski, I will wander.

I leave you with words from Thoreau that guide me daily:

I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art of Walking, that is, of taking walks — who had a genius, so to speak, for sauntering, which word is beautifully derived “from idle people who roved about the country, in the Middle Ages, and asked charity, under pretense of going a la Sainte Terre, to the Holy Land, till the children exclaimed, “There goes a Sainte-Terrer,” a Saunterer, a Holy-Lander. They who never go to the Holy Land in their walks, as they pretend, are indeed mere idlers and vagabonds; but they who do go there are saunterers in the good sense, such as I mean. Some, however, would derive the word fromsans terre, without land or a home, which, therefore, in the good sense, will mean, having no particular home, but equally at home everywhere. For this is the secret of successful sauntering. He who sits still in a house all the time may be the greatest vagrant of all; but the saunterer, in the good sense, is no more vagrant than the meandering river, which is all the while sedulously seeking the shortest course to the sea.


  1. nancy magnusson says:

    Please come walk throughout the Southwest…the open spaces of the desert gently open hearts and open minds.

    • Melanie says:

      Nancy, I would love to come walk throughout the Southwest…who knows where my sabbatical will lead me, but if it is there, I will let you know…

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