An Escapologist’s Diary. Part 38. Solvitur Ambulando.


This post is dedicated to Escapologist of distinction Lentus who is walking the Camino Santiago. He taught me the term Solvitur Ambulando, which means “it is solved by walking”.

For almost three months, I’ve been prevented from walking everywhere by the ferocious Quebec winter. If that sounds sissy or uncommitted, you should know that we’re talking about snow up to the knees, torrents of slippery grey slush, pavements like frosted glass, and temperatures as low as -40°C (though -15 is more typical). Here’s the view from my balcony.

It’s not impossible to walk through this and it can be fun to do so on occasion, but when your daily routine includes two 45-minute walks, such oppressive conditions cease to be entertaining very quickly.

So I started travelling by bus. It will come as no surprise to anyone that I’m not hugely fond of a rush hour bus. It may offer protection from the elements, but it’s crowded and lurching and it frequently smells like farts.

For a fortnight now, the bus has been particularly bad. Several times, it has simply failed to arrive at all and I’ve resorted to splitting taxi cabs with other commuters after waiting in the cold for half an hour. Did I mention it’s -15°C on a good day?

So I’ve taken matters into my own hands this week and started walking again in spite of the winter. It’s no picnic, but at least I can stay relatively warm when walking, compared to standing still at a bus stop.

It’s also an opportunity to try some black-belt Stoicism. I just try to remember that my internal self cannot be pelted with ice. Only my outer shell is vulnerable.

The return to regular walking has been tough but rewarding. I feel strong and vital! The physical exercise doubtless helps, but it’s also the solitude and the time to think and the sense of being connected to the world instead of just crammed into the same cattle truck again and again, never really seeing anything.

Try it yourself. Damn the elements. Go for a walk. Solvitur Ambulando.

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Robert Wringham is a humorist and the editor-in-chief of New Escapologist.

4 Responses to “An Escapologist’s Diary. Part 38. Solvitur Ambulando.”

  1. Mark Garner says:

    Ha! This really resonates with me. The winter over in the UK has been hideously wet but not cold this year. I too have 40 mins walk to work and back. I well recall in previous years the real challenge of walking on ice (ouch…) and through snow. This year, I’ve taken the unusual step of catching the bus on the odd occasion when it simply is too absurdly wet to walk in.

    The curious smells on the bus coupled with the anti-social behaviour of the other sullen passengers (who attempt to prevent other people sitting next to them by means of a strategically-placed handbag or coat); all this makes me long for the walk again and for the very reasons you’ve outlined.

  2. Bev says:

    I live near Ottawa, so I know exactly what you’re talking about. I walk every day, just because sometimes in the winter, feeling the weather on your face is the only way I know for sure I am alive on this planet. I need to feel something real. I escaped a few years ago, so the commute is merely a bad memory for me. Nothing like a bus ride to bring out one’s inner misanthrope! I’ve just come back from snowshoeing in the woods in heavy snow and it was wonderful.

    Oh, and proper footwear makes all the difference (words to live by, really).

  3. Agreed Bev! I tolerated some crappy boots for ages because I never thought I’d be in Montreal for so many winters. I finally bought some good ones and it makes a world of difference.

  4. The bus can be pretty grim, eh Mark. I’m glad to have it as an option though and I still prefer public transport to cars. But it’s bloody rubbish sometimes. Mercifully we’re spared the anti-social behaviour in Canada (that’s a UK problem and I don’t miss it) but a bus being so unreliable in these winter conditions is really rather bad. Walk, walk, walk, and our problems will vamoose.

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