Le sentier d’un flâneur (The Path of the Wanderer)

Initially, I was quite bored of it all until Casablanca. My aunt asked me to sit with her and keep her company while she watched her beloved black-and-white movies. The mood and suspense of Casablanca crept into my consciousness and found a place in my heart. Expats, activists, and resisters awaiting travel visas while frequenting a fancy gin joint in French Morocco were what inspired me at a young age, the idea of wandering to lands far far away.

You’d think it would be a story easily lost on an eleven-year-old on the other side of the world in 1970s Brooklyn, but the film had me at “Hello Rick.”

I wondered where they were. I asked, “Where is Morocco?” It was all strange in the most unfamiliar and intriguing way. Fez hats, hookahs, gambling, folks in love, and an airplane waiting to whisk Bogey and Bergman off is the stuff of Hollywood. However, the idea of escape to faraway lands caught my attention. The idea of skipping town and going somewhere touched me after that movie.

This Brooklyn girl never learned the fine art of driving. Having wheels in New York City is not only unnecessary, it is a burden, so I walk once I get unpacked in a new city or town. Feeling the ground beneath my feet centers and orients me. It helps me to find my way.

I’m attracted to the French idea of la flâneur; one who wanderers in a beautiful, poetic, and philosophical manner.

Walking can be a contemplative, spiritual, and aesthetic experience. The importance of a long journey is part pilgrimage, allowing the mind to clear. In that clearance, a peace arises. Inspired ideas have the space to come forward in answer to our deepest concerns.

What good is the drifter, the dharma bum? Does the monk or the poet have any value? What have writers and philosophers made of their walking, of their wandering?

The Poet Robert Frost was often asked while out walking if he was relaxing, having a break from writing? He’d say the walking part was the work. It was at those moments that his ideas came to him. He simply had to write down what was given to him while walking when he put pen to page.

Movement is a kind of salve for me. When I get lonely and afraid I ask myself, Why can’t I have a normal life? Normal being a life with a family full of children. I adore children. Why can’t I start a family and make a home instead of living a gypsy-like nomadic existence?

I have had many thoughts about what goes into having a family. I think of the immense effort of caring for and raising one’s children. The house cleaning and food preparations, the education and guidance, the faithful need to be attentive and available are some of the things I would aspire to if I were to have a family.

While out walking one day I began to understand that though I miss not having children, I choose and prefer the freedom of movement, of flight, without worry. I am moved to wander. So spookily so, I wonder if I am called to wander. I enjoy immensely quiet and solitude, travel and writing. These passions have profound drawbacks—for example, missing out on raising children or other paths not taken.

I have a romantic taste for walking. I walk to enjoy the beauty of this world. I walk to get in tune with the divine, with nature. I walk to be still and to know. I walk for the sheer joy of it.

As a wanderer, I witness the way the pleasures in life present themselves in every step. Sometimes—oftentimes—it is a quiet, unassuming mysterious welling up of beauty that surprises me, and getting lost while wandering is a part of it all as well.

I am beginning to wonder if it is me who has chosen the life of the wanderer, la flâneur. Or is it that the path of the wanderer has chosen me? I ponder these questions simply because when I drift through the winding, dusty, unfamiliar roads of Morocco, I feel more at home than ever. I encountered a sense of home long ago simply sitting beside my aunt watching Casablanca one Brooklyn evening. I haven’t been the same since.

Tinka Harvard