ODE TO WANDERLUST
I long to walk there, maybe there and then there.
More joy-filled I’ll return, you may surely trust.
In my lifetime, I shall flaneur everywhere,
Just my feet, my daydreams and wanderlust.
“I love to go a-flaneuring” just doesn’t have quite the earworm viability of “I love to go a-wandering,” but, those words mean almost the same thing. You might think of a flaneur as a “wanderer with joyful alertness.” Flaneurs have their antennae up and are savoring a SMILE-MAKING and SPELLBINDING moment “in the flow.”
David Blake, a traveling social scientist who calls himself a “free range human” and created the website, https://www.flaneurlife.com/ adds this for greater clarity: “The word, ‘flaneur’ is difficult (nearly impossible) to translate from the French. French-English dictionaries define a flaneur as someone who strolls, loafs or idles, but that doesn’t do the term justice. Let’s think of the ‘flaneur’ as a connoisseur of the street—a highly observant urban wanderer who takes in everything they see as they seek experiences that fuel their creative minds.”
FLANEUR JOY might not be quite the words you’d choose for your own meanderings though it does have a petite dash of panache,’ you must admit. You could opt for “Dawdler Joy” or if you sported a jaunty hat, “Boulevardier Joy.” Lollygagging, anyone? That said, I would really like some reader to loop into a sporting goods store and say to a salesperson, “I see you have running shorts, but do you have flaneuring shorts?” Just trust me on this.
FLANEUR JOY is a step beyond commonplace walking, though walking more is one of the very smartest things you can do to add joy to your life. Studies indicate even a 5-minute walk can help with concentration and aid problem-solving. Here are ways “flaneuring” is good for you physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually:
CHANGING PATHS for BRAIN FLEXIBILITY—Neuroscientist Dr. Daniel Levitin, author of “The Changing Mind,” says “Outdoors, anything can happen—and that’s the most potent way of keeping the brain flexible and active that we have discovered so far.” Instead of the boring sameness of a treadmill or a predictable, paved track, let your mind play as you move different sets of muscles stepping on cobblestones, trudging a sloping meadow or walking on pea gravel.
“AWE WALKS” LIFT YOUR SPIRIT—Stop listening for the next “text ping” when you saunter along and opt instead to listen rapturously to a bird sing. As you become a flaneur, you are more likely to experience a sense of wonderment as your senses become teased and thrilled.
LOSE YOURSELF to FEEL LESS SELF-IMPORTANT—Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, told “InStyle Magazine” this year (January, 2022) that when he begins to worry about the global impact his business decisions may have, he chooses to feel “inconsequential” and small, alone in nature. Cook shared, “I think it’s good for all of us to feel insignificant, and there’s no better way to do that than to be out in nature and in the national parks, which I dearly love. I find it grounding, relaxing, and a way to clear the mind like nothing else quite does.”
DE-STRESS THE WORST OF TIMES—During the pandemic lockdown, according to research sponsored by the “walking shoe” brand, Rockport, Americans walked one to five miles more per day compared to pre-2020 statistics. No matter how much you love being with your family or your super-compatible mate, sometimes you just need to get away from them for your sanity and theirs.
However, for many shut in by the coronavirus plague and related malaise, there is a second “pandemic of idleness.” Thomas Frieden, M.D., former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, lauds low-impact walking outdoors for cardiovascular and immune-boosting benefits and prescribes it as “the closest thing we have to a wonder drug.”
DOLLY PARTON IS STILL FLANEURING at 75—Explaining her partnership with Apple Fitness+ (see Tim Cook above), “The Divine Dolly,” says “I do my best thinking when I walk.”
CONNECT TO THE WHOLE EARTH—In her book, “Wanderlust: The History of Walking,” the essayist Rebecca Solnit writes that while walking “one lives in the whole world rather than in interiors built up against it…On foot everything stays connected.”
SELECTIVE OPTIMIZATION and COMPENSATION—German psychologist Paul Baltes has been a hero of mine over the past 40 years in my work as “The Gerontologist of Joy.” One of the “Baltes theories” on “successful aging” is that we should select activities enjoyed in our peak years of achievement and then compensate for any declines experienced over time. An example, using another hero, is that astronaut/senator John Glenn, for years jogged daily but in his 90s, he chose to walk regularly and much of that time not inside in a gym, but happily meandering along the cobblestoned streets of historic, Washington, D.C. and nearby Virginia. The changing vistas and variety of surface terrains aided his “brain flexibility.”
NORDIC WALKING—Yes, it looks goofy as all “git out” to us Americans but walking with poles as if “snow skiing on dirt” burns 20-46% more calories than regular walking according to Malin Svensson author of the enthusiasts’ bible, “Nordic Walking.” A study by researchers at the University of Florida shows that “Nordic walking,” with those sillyass poles, reduces stress at the knee joint by about 30% compared to flaneuring without them.
“The S.U.N.S. (Smile-Making, Uniting, Neighboring, Spellbinding) Joyous Aging System” reminds us that walking with joyous wonderment increases our opportunities to see things and do things with positivity. Flaneuring can be a great way to deepen relationships with those we love, help us get out of our own heads to care about our neighbors and regularly be magically captivated in the “flow.”
FLANEUR JOY ODES from OTHERS:
“Free and alone in the maze of the city, the flaneur craves a revelation that might change his life and his destiny.”—Frederico Castigliano
“I was trying to daydream but my mind kept wandering.”—Steven Wright
“Whenever I get fed up with life, I love to go wandering in nature.”—Andreas Arnold
“I’m a wandering gypsy.”—Lady Gaga
“To be away from home and yet to feel oneself everywhere at home; to see the world, to be at the center of the world and yet to remain hidden from the world…the spectator is a prince who everywhere rejoices in his incognito.”—Charles Baudelaire
“It’s fun wandering through other people’s minds.”—Jenny Holzer
FLANEUR JOY JOKES
“My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was 60. She’s 97 now, and we don’t know where the hell she is.”—Ellen Degeneres
“A priest was walking down a side street in his little town when he came across a woman of ill repute. He stopped and told her in no uncertain terms that she had chosen the wrong path. ‘You’re tellin’ me, Father,’ she answered. ‘I’ve been on this street for more than an hour and you’re the first man I’ve seen.”
“I made a musical playlist for my hours wandering and flaneuring. It has tunes from the Muppets, Beyonce’ and The Beatles. I call it my trail mix.”
“Three bubbas were strolling through the countryside and saw a pig stuck halfway through the fence. ‘I wish that was my wife,’ said the fellow from Alabama. ‘I wish that was my girlfriend,’ said the guy from Tennessee. ‘I wish it was dark out here,’ said the bubba from Mississippi.”
JOY-GIVERS CELEBRATING A BIRTHDAY THIS WEEK:
April 30—George Balanchine
May 1—Tim McGraw
May 2—Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
May 3—Bing Crosby
May 4—Keith Haring
May 5—James Beard
May 6—Kim Oden, volleyball Olympian
(Source: delish.com—this popular, Mexican street food is perfect for Cinco de Mayo)
Each week, Joy & Gerontology shares a recipe saluting a healthy food produced in America. The delicious and nutritious collection is called “The S.U.N.S. Longevity Cookbook” and highlights vitamin B-3 (niacin) which many gerontologists believe holds the promise for a long, healthy, joyful life.
¼ cup finely chopped walnuts, plus more for serving
Canola or vegetable oil, for brushing
4 ears corn, shucked and cleaned
¼ cup mayo
¼ cup sour cream
¼ cup cotija cheese (or Parmesan)
Chili powder, for serving
1 lime, cut into wedges
Cilantro, for serving, if desired
Step 1—Heat oven to 350F. Scatter walnuts on small baking pan. Toast until lightly golden, about 8 minutes. Set aside.
Step 2—Preheat a grill pan over medium-high heat and oil grates. Brush corn with oil and grill, turning occasionally until kernels are bright yellow and charred in places, about 10 minutes.
Step 3—In a small bowl, combine mayo and sour cream. In another small bowl, combine walnuts and cotija cheese.
Step 4—Brush cooked corn with mayo mixture, then sprinkle with walnut mixture and a generous amount of chili powder. Squeeze one lime wedge over the corn and sprinkle with cilantro and more walnuts. Serve with lime wedges.
THE HAPPY WANDERER
(This popular song, “Der Froliche Wanderer,” was written by a German woman, Florenz Friedrich Sigismund (1791-1877) for the children’s choir her sister, Edith, conducted.)
I love to go a-wandering,
Along the mountain track,
And as I go, I love to sing,
My knapsack on my back.
My knapsack on my back.
I love to wander by the stream
That dances in the sun,
So joyously, it calls to me,
“Come! Join my happy song!”
“I wave my hand to all I meet,
And they wave back at me,
And blackbirds call so loud and sweet
From ev’ry green wood tree.
High overhead, the skylarks wing,
They never rest at home
But just like me, they love to sing,
As o’er the world we roam.
Oh, may I go a-wandering
Until the day I die.
Oh, may I always laugh and sing,
Beneath God’s clear blue sky.
1,070 JOY-GIVING THINGS FROM MY FIRST 70 YEARS (continued):
384. “Walking on Sunshine” with Katrina and the Waves.
385. Happening upon a discreet bit of graffiti.
386. “Fractured Fairytales” on “Rocky and Bullwinkle.”
387. “Rindercella” told by Archie Campbell.
388. Pebbles and Bam Bam.
389. Judging a Lego contest for originality and storytelling.
390. Donkey basketball.
391. The “laddie novels” of Nick Hornby.
392. Any novel by Anne Tyler.
393. Knowing Anne Tyler is Nick Hornby’s favorite, contemporary novelist.
394. A snide Bingo caller.
395. That ballsy confidence of “Stuart Little.”
396. Buying one hundred and forty-two back issues of “Architectural Digest” during a pandemic midwinter.
397. Watching my dad “shadow box” as he watched television boxing.
398. A big, Texas omelette.
399. “Honey, magnolias will bloom in the mud.”
400. The smell of baseball glove leather.
401. The smell of leather shops in Spain.
402. The sound of “frou-frou” as ballgowns sweep across carpet.
403. “Let it go.”
404. Milk Duds.
405. Peter Potamus.
406. “Walkin’ After Midnight” with Patsy Cline.
HAPPY WANDERING, WONDERFUL MONTH OF MAY!