I have friends that hike, that ski, scuba. They trek and cycle in foreign lands through wet and cold and sun and rain. I applaud them, I admire them, but I neither envy, nor seek to surpass or even equal them. I’m more what one might call a “stasist” than an activist. Not everyone can be a mover and shaker.
Emily Dickinson, from the fastness of her Amherst, Massachusetts, room wrote:
“There is no frigate like a book,
To take us Lands away
Nor any Coursers like a Page
Of prancing Poetry –
This Traverse may the poorest take
Without Excess of Toll –
How frugal is the Chariot
That bears the Human Soul –”
Dickinson crossed the Massachusetts border twice, visiting her Congressman father in Washington, D.C. and stopping briefly with Philadelphia relatives. Eventually, she avoided face-to-face encounters altogether, corresponding via letters with a select few.
I enjoy traveling, despite its “Excess of Toll”, preferring to visit the same cities (Paris, Amsterdam), walking their streets and byways with my camera. But I’m rarely active or sportive. On cold or rainy days, I snug up in my hotel and board one of the many frigates berthed on my iPad.
On my recent vacation—my first time in the U.K.—there were numerous rainy, windy days to recline and voyage internally. In addition to my camera equipment, I’d loaded Ron Chernow’s 800-page biography, Hamilton, on my iPad. While not exactly Dickinson’s “frugal Chariot”, today’s miracle widgets can pack a veritable fleet of frigates into a few electronic ounces. We are allowed journeys within journeys undreamed of in Dickinson’s day. Born in 1830, she was closer in time to Alexander Hamilton (d. 1804) than to us. And, not until reading about him as the Highland rain pattered down, did I learn that he, unlike the peripatetic Franklin, Adams, and Jefferson, had never ventured across the Atlantic.
This essay is not a paean to sports and activity so much as an acknowledgment that we each explore the world as best suits our temperament. Some within a single room, others world-wide, with bursts of energy and feats of derring-do. My Fitbit tends to flatline, and sometimes I question whether the active actually live longer or whether it just feels that way.