What brings Barry to mind just now—besides the imminence of this year’s Readercon—is his habit of frequent daily walks. At the con he’s usually found in shorts and sturdy shoes, and he goes out for a hike or stroll in the morning, afternoon and evening, if not more often. This, I gather, is his main exercise, adopted to keep in check various ailments, and, along with only one big meal a day and no alcohol, seems to keep Barry in very good trim. Alas, I just learned that those ailments have flared up and Barry won’t be at Readercon this year.
Still, I’ve been gradually adopting his practice of getting out and about on foot during the day. Over the past year or two I’ve had trouble in getting to the gym: There were toe and foot problems, then psychological barriers, and now just plain laziness, I guess. But I have begun to walk around the block in the morning and then again in the late afternoon. It gets me away from the house and out of this chair, in which I spend far too much time being sedentary. Coincidentally, I’ve also acquired a lectern at which I try to do some of my writing standing up. I’m using it now.
There is, of course, a long established literary-philosophical tradition of sauntering, strolling, and hiking. The ancients coined the phrase “solvitur ambulando”—figure it out by walking about. In theory, perambulating stimulates the brain. I don’t know—when I’m making my way around the neighborhood I tend to daydream, or list mentally my various unmet deadlines or unstarted chores.
The romantic poets, it seems, would think nothing of having a good breakfast or lunch, then going on a 30 mile tramp over hill and dale. Wordsworth apparently composed—or paced out--his poetry while wandering the Lake District. Received tradition has it that one could set one’s watch by the regularity of philosopher Immanuel Kant’s afternoon strolls.
Do other members of the Reading Room go walking when they need exercise or find themselves with a problem to solve or a book or poem you want to mull over? Does it seem useful? Are you able to combine reading or thinking about books with any other physical activities? Some people, I know, are able to read while working out on stationary bicycles or treadmills. There’s too much bouncing around for me, plus my eyes can’t usually see well enough in gyms when the light is low and the typefont is small. So I tend to daydream there too.
It’s a pity that you can’t do squats and read at the same time. It would be either impossible or incredibly dangerous. Still, people do sometimes read under dangerous conditions—in fast-moving cars, for instance, when they’re not texting. Some guys, I know, glance at the newspaper while waiting at stoplights. I believe I once saw a bedroom farce in which a supine woman read a book during sex. That’s undermining both experiences. Still, what’s the most unusual place you’ve ever enjoyed a book or the most unusual conditions under which you read one? Please share your thoughts and anecdotes.