This week I visited the home of a couple who have just moved to the country. The house is as comfortable as it is beautiful. It has plenty of places to bask in sunshine, curl up with a good book or meander through an acre of established perennial gardens. The neighbourhood, which is a loose collection of farms and houses accessible by a gravel road, sounds even better.
The neighbours sound friendly but they must also be fun and thoughtful. This week, one family is beginning a monthly “Sunday Soup and Saunter.” People are invited to walk local trails together following a 9 km route or meet up halfway and only walk 4 km. Later in the afternoon they all gather for soup, bread and conversation. How lovely!
But don’t call it a hike. The invitation was careful to point out that this is a different kind of walk. I wonder if perhaps that means it will be a little slower and little more thoughtful. This was at the bottom of the email:
Do you know the origin of the 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 saint terre,” or “To the holy land.” And so they became known as the ‘sainte-terre-ers’ or saunterers. –John Muir as quoted by Albert W. Palmer, The Mountain Trail and its Message (1911)
This is a beautiful way to walk in the woods. It’s also a lovely way to walk through the season of Advent. Instead of rushing around, frantically buying gifts at the mall and hurrying to get to Christmas Day, why not slow everything down to a saunter? Stop at ‘good enough’ instead of insisting on perfection. Give up the traditions that have stopped being fun or meaningful. Be at peace with fewer decorations or cookies or gifts.
In our house we have been changing the way we live for about a year now. We have reduced our household expenses, our impact on the environment, our wardrobes and our possessions. It has been surprisingly easy and incredibly rewarding because every time we get rid of something–furniture, debt and even our house–we have found that we receive plenty more in return. As we begin the season of Advent we know the gift of peace and a slower pace. We are ready to saunter all the way to Christmas.
I invite you to think about how you might make changes in your life, your routine, or your household so that you, too, can slow down to a saunter. There are so many gifts ready and waiting for those who decide not to hurry. May you find them as you savour the journey through the Advent season.