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Take Time to Saunter

Saunter:  "to walk in a casual manner; stroll."  Synonyms include amble, ramble, stroll, wander, mosey (one of my favorites), and meander. (1) 

When is the last time you felt free to saunter?  To proceed at your own pace, to stop and observe, to step into a place of spiritual connection?  Most of us spend most of our time adhering to schedules, running late, trying to keep up.  What if you could take an hour, a half-hour, or even 15 minutes, and just saunter?

Having just returned from a trip to California which included both Muir Woods and Yosemite National Park, I've been reading up on John Muir, who had a hand in preserving both places.  Here is what Muir had to say about sauntering:

"Hiking - I don't like either the word or the thing. People ought to saunter in the mountains - not hike! Do you know the origin of that word 'saunter?' It's a beautiful word. Away back in the Middle Ages people used to go on pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and when people in the villages through which they passed asked where they were going, they would reply, "A la sainte terre,' 'To the Holy Land.' And so they became known as sainte-terre-ers or saunterers. Now these mountains are our Holy Land, and we ought to saunter through them reverently, not 'hike' through them." (2)
There is some disagreement about whether Muir's etymology of the word is correct, although it does appear in references dating back to at least 1691.  The more accepted theory is that the word derives from the Middle English santren, meaning to muse, meditate, or be in reverie.  

Either way, the word connotes a slowing down, a mindful attention to one's surroundings.  A retreat from the hurry and drama of daily life.  An appreciation of the vastness of the Universe and the long line of time.

I invite you to take some time this week to saunter.  Whether you saunter through the woods, or through an art museum, or through the streets of a bustling city, pay attention.  Saunter reverently. Allow yourself to meander.  Be in reverie. 

(2) quoted by Albert Palmer in A Parable of Sauntering:

An interesting but irrelevant fact (unless you are from Northern Ireland, in which case it may be highly relevant):  according to, the word "saunter" is sometimes used as an expletive in Northern Ireland, with the meaning of "get lost" or "take a hike."  It's fascinating how words can take on such different meanings...  But if someone yelling at you to "saunter" - i.e., get lost - is what it takes to get you to take some time in solitude, consider it done.  Saunter!

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