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Sabbath Day – Walking the Watershed

October 1, 2016

I often wake up praying on my Sabbath days. I am not going to my office, or the church. I am not making pastoral visits. I do not generally answer my phone, and I avoid my email. And so I wake up praying:– for all those I have left in God’s care.

My only hope for this Sabbath day had been to take a brief walk, as it was expected to rain for most of the day. The rain never came, and I did take a short walk, but most of the day was unexpected.

For one, it began in grief. I learned that someone I had been praying for had died in Beirut. Two hours later I learned that another person I had been praying for had also died over night in London. (I would learn later in the day of a third who was beginning to die).

I tried in fits and starts to read a novel during the morning, a novel of Palestine by the Lebanese poet, novelist, and public intellectual, Elias Khoury: Gate of the Sun. It is a deeply beautiful, disturbing, unsettling history of an occupied land. With every page, however, I was reminded of the very fine man who had died that morning in Lebanon.

Distracted, I tried to pick up several different books: a history of covenant theology and capitalism I thought might become a sermon, Nicholson’s “philosophy of walking,” a collection of essays by James Baldwin, but I kept being pulled back to the novel without actually being able to read it.

I finally took my walk. It was an exercise in watershed literacy, or watershed theology. The apartment building in which we live sits right on the border of two watersheds: the Bronx River watershed and the Mamaroneck River watershed. The rain that falls in front of our window rolls west toward the Bronx, or East toward the Mamaroneck. We are set on the rise that defines the two watersheds. Walking the neighborhood makes this topography clear. In my neighborhood to Mamaroneck river is largely hidden, though. None of my neighbors actually knew it was here, yet eight tenths of mile away I was standing above the river.


The Mamaroneck originates less than a mile from here in a wetlands near Silver Lake. It runs through a park and then is largely hidden below road systems or behind sound barrier walls. A few hundred feet beyond the photo above, it is joined by the first of three tributaries. The photo below was taken across the road (White Plains Avenue over 287) from the photo above , looking North. The river disappears below the roadway.


Continuing North, on the other side of Westchester Avenue, I found Highway Department crews clearing the overgrowth beside the river. What are the chances that the day I set out to find the river would be a day of reclamation/restoration?


I finished the book by Geoff Nicholson, The Lost Art of Walking: The History, Science, Philosophy, and Literature of Pedestrianism (Riverside Books, 2008). This is one of a dozen books on the topic of hiking/walking I have collected this year, and the first I have finished. Endlessly entertaining, occasionally elitist, always informative and anecdotal; reads like a memoir. By comparison, A Philosophy of Walking by Frederic Gros (Verso, 2011), which I am still working on, reads like an annotated bibliography and review of literature, although sometimes preachy. The chapter on Nietzsche alone, is worth the book, though. It did win the English Pen Award.

Our evening involved picking up pet supplies, dinner at Smash Burger, and early to bed, with prayers for all those I love.

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