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The Wonder of Wanderlust

The Gentle Art of Wandering
The Gentle Art of Wandering
David Ryan

The Gentle Art of Wandering


I recently had the pleasure of spending time with a fellow ex-Chicagoan and current “Burquenño” who has an infectious passion that keeps him happy and well – physically, mentally, spiritually, socially, and emotionally. David Ryan shares his knowledge through his web site and his book whose title reveals his secret: The Gentle Art of Wandering.

The Gentle Art of Wandering explores the purpose, benefits, and principles of Ryan’s studied approach to walking, hiking, running, and traveling that emphasizes the principles of PRESENCE, CONNECTEDNESS, and DISCOVERY. They are sure to surprise you if you, like many others, think of “wandering” as going off-course as Alzheimer’s patients often do.

Presence Being present is about being mindful and seeing while wandering -- seeing deeply (“with the whole body”), like you may have never done before. On Page 22 of his book, he describes the day he had discovered a tiny ancient fetish while wandering in the back-country of New Mexico and how that find was an experience that both enhanced his own awareness of his surroundings and stoked his curiosity about the found object.

“On some pieces of pottery you can still see the fingerprints of its maker," he writes. “ Look around and think about what the maker’s life must have been like,… when and where the fetish was made… What was it used for? Was it used once and tossed away, or was it cherished and kept for generations? “

Connectedness While wandering gently, Ryan believes that by knowing how to avoid distractions we will observe the unexpected and connect to our surroundings. He writes: “This quieting is necessary because our active mind likes to be in control and wants things to be the way it wants them to be…That’s why it is easy for people to miss changes happening right in front of them…By being present and connected, your senses can spot and bring to your attention something that is different and out of place.” (p.15)

Discovery Ryan brings together all three key principles of his wandering triad by positing that as a result of being present and connected to one’s surroundings while wandering, whether in a city, village, desert, or meadow, the true reward is attained; i.e., the discovery of something meaningful and enriching: maybe a strange ancient artifact, or a living thing that you had never before encountered (like a neighbor), or the sound of a hive of bees, or the smell of ferns right after a rain (as he recounts in his book.)

Historically, here are two examples of wanderers who most likely followed David Ryan’s triad:

  • Christopher Columbus, rather than focusing on his goal of reaching India, kept his eye on the sea, horizon, and land masses, looking for a break in the patterns that might be key. So what did he "discover?"
  • In 1527, another Spanish sea-faring group headed by Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca, excited by rumors of gold and hoping to settle Florida, became lost, wandered through Texas, Mexico, and New Mexico for 8+ years, the first Europeans to explore (“discover?”) the Southwest. He also became known a as a faith healer by the natives. Who woulda thought?

New Mexico Wandering David feels that more and more people, even – or maybe especially – city-dwellers, are looking for more“walkability” in their lives. “Many not only want to be able to run errands on foot,” he says, “but would also like to take an interesting walk without driving to a trail-head.”

The entire state of New Mexico offers hundreds of both marked and unmarked, both backcountry and urban, trails to wander. Based on my own observations in the Duke City, it appears that most wanderers are found in these three areas: The Bosque (the beautiful cottonwood forest along both sides of the Rio Grande); the Petroglyph National Monument (On the western margin of Albuquerque, it’s the largest petroglyph site in North America with 24,000 “rock art” designs and symbols carved on rocks by Native Americans and Spanish settlers and abuts a chain of dormant fissure volcanoes that are another great wandering site.); and the city’s Open Space foothills and Sandia Mountain trails.

David Ryan will give a free presentation about his ideas and book at the Elena Gallegos Open Space on Albuquerque on Saturday, June 14 at 7 PM. Click here for information.