Chaplains (and Chaplain-minded people) know how to saunter.
Not mere walking, not only hiking, but moving along mindfully, listening, aware with senses in full operation. This is what Thoreau meant by sauntering. In his essay on “Walking” (1862), the Concord Saunterer explained that this is a word derived from people who roved about the countryside in the Middle Ages seeking the “Sainte Terre”: the Holy Land. He says,
“I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art of Walking. . .who had a genius for sauntering.”
I have no doubt Henry, like his fellow pilgrim John Muir, found many “holy places” as they walked deeper into the Wild Chapels of the earth (in a sense, no patch of ground is “holier” than any other, and maybe saying holy or sacred is ultimately unhelpful). Not places to worship or pray necessarily, not spaces to think of other worlds above, beyond or behind this one, but places at each step that remind us to be present, artfully attentive and responsive with compassion. Drawn on by wonder and delight, they were practitioners of the open path to the “holy land” all around us– Secular Pilgrims on the Way of Nature.