Lollygaggin’

Being pedestrian can mean many things. Traveling on foot leads to endless variations. There is simple walking. There is strenuous hiking. There is jogging. You get the point. Two feet—many modes.

Those many modes can lead to many moods as well. Last week I was writing about footsloggin’ where the task is just to keep moving one foot in front of the other. Left, right, repeat. The mood that seems to accompany footsloggin’ is determination. One is being driven by an inner determination to make progress, to cover miles, to gain ground, to strain with all the momentum that the spirit can offer. It may not always be fun, but as I am prone to say, “it builds character.” Many are days and trails and miles that are an exercise in character building.

But there are other days, other times, when there is a lighter mood to the journey. I got to experience that mood this past week.

I had had an intense week filled with lots of activities. Much was required in the way of interpersonal attention. I was on-stage and up-front for several events. I love people and am happy to help them as I’m able. But the truth is that I am an introvert, and I need time to recharge my batteries from intense social engagements. Funerals, weddings, teaching, preaching, conversing—I put a lot into those things. So I needed time to recoup, to restore my depleted energy level.

I blocked out the time, checked the weather forecast, looked over some maps, and made the decision that I would go for a solo hike and hang. I picked a trail that I thought would be mostly vacant on a Friday morning. It was a bit of a drive from the house and out in the country where cell service would be minimal – the best kind. It was a short trail, out and back, to an overlook with a view down to the Big South Fork of the Cumberland River. Seemed good to me.

I put my pack together with a hammock and an underquilt since it was going to be a crisp spring day. I grabbed some food for lunch and snacking. Off I drove to the trailhead and found it empty of vehicles—excellent.

Then it was on to lollygaggin’. Lollygaggin’ is the opposite of footsloggin’. Footsloggin’ is a determination to keep moving, driven by a need to accomplish something, whether it be the reaching the next trail junction or a mileage goal. It tends to feel like hard work, and indeed, it often is. Lollygaggin’ on the other hand, is characterized by a detachment from the feet doing their work. It is a delight in just being able to move and enjoy the woods and listen to the wind which seems to help carry you along. Lollygaggin’ almost begs you not to count the steps or the miles; lollygaggin’ at its best is devoid of goals, aims, and targets. It is the process of enjoying every step, every little twist and turn, every ray of sunlight, and everything else that the trail presents to you. The slower you go, the better the lollygaggin’. The more time you can waste observing little things, the more enjoyable the process. Lollygaggin’ is an artform that takes some time to master.

On this day the trail was not strenuous. The sun was shining. There was no one else around. It felt as if my feet were self-propelled. There was no schedule to meet. There was no ticking clock to race. I was just sort of floating along. Lollygaggin’ to a goodly degree.

The tread was mostly covered with leaves left from the fall. There were some places where the trail was mired up a bit from horse traffic, but these were easily avoided. There were places where the water had washed the leaves off revealing sandstone beneath—some places actually seemed to have had steps sculpted as an added convenience for hikers such as myself. A very pleasant path to travel!

The walk was refreshing, but I also found myself very much engaged in a scouting expedition. I was examining the woods for trees – not just any tress. I needed trees that would have the proper spacing and orientation to string up a hammock for a day camp. Sometimes it is true that I cannot see the forest for the trees—I’m looking and measuring and calculating which trees are going to offer me the best spot to suspend myself for rest and relaxation. This is an important element of lollygaggin’ for me—it’s not just the moving part, but also the stopping and swaying part.

Mixed hardwoods make good spots for lollygaggin’. Being early spring, the leaves were not yet out, so the sun was penetrating all the way to the forest floor. I like to get at least a little bit off the trail, so as not to impede anyone else who may also be out and about. I found a spot with a sturdy hickory and a young maple about 20’ off the trail. It was close to the top of a small rise. I strung up my hammock, ate some lunch, and laid back for a nap. Napping, by the way, is often part of lollygaggin’—in fact, I’m not sure that I have officially lollygagged until I have had a nap! There is something incredibly refreshing about waking up in the woods.

As I hung there, a few others passed by. Words of greeting were exchanged and the comment was made more than once: “You look comfortable!” Yes indeed, that is the point! We did not have any substantial conversations. Mostly I was free to hang out and let my mind and spirit sway with the wind.

The inner journey needs all kinds of modes and moods to happen. There are times when the best way forward is not to worry about making progress at all. Just relax and let it happen. Find a path, some trees, some time, some sunshine, and let the lollygaggin’ begin!

*The Self-Proclaimed ‘Lord of Lollygaggin’ is Sean “shug” Emery. If you have any questions about how to do good lollygaggin’, check out his video channel on YouTube.

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