Writing on the Trail at Warner Parks

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Writing on the Trail at Warner Parks

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Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,

Healthy, free, the world before me,

The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.

Walt Whitman, 1856

 For decades, Walt Whitman’s lines have echoed through my mind, teaching me that when we go afoot, we are invited to be light-hearted, curious, and optimistic. The open road, trail, or sidewalk invites freedom. To love “the long brown path before me” is to love the world. Whitman calls on us to recognize that we create “good fortune” within ourselves when we walk. Spending too much time indoors, he knew, can lead us to feel paralyzed by too much information.

It’s not hard to import Whitman’s advice to writers of our time, to imagine Whitman coaxing you and me to stop scrolling aimlessly through the news or social media and to spend the next hour or so setting out afoot on the trail. The earth, Whitman insisted, is “sufficient,” and putting feet to path (not bottom to chair!) reminds us that the world is wondrous, mysterious, and worthy of our time, attention, and affection.

During our four-hour class, we’ll use walking as a tool to revive creativity and refresh the imagination. We will use guided writing prompts about place and attention as we explore and write on the trail. Please bring a journal, pens/pencils (including colored pencils if you’d like), comfortable shoes, a water bottle, and a sack lunch or snack if you like.


  • Instructor: Bonnie Smith Whitehouse

  • Length of workshop: 3 hours

  • Date: Saturday, Apr. 27

  • Time: 10 am - 1 pm

  • Location: Percy Warner Park and Visitor Center

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Bonnie Smith Whitehouse, Ph.D., is Professor of English at Belmont University. She specializes in the flourishing field of writing studies and is dedicated to producing written work that brings academic findings to a curious general readership. For twenty years, she has taught writing to undergraduate and graduate students, and for over six years, she has taught an innovative, experimental learning community on walking and writing. When Tennessee’s spring wildflowers are at their peak, she has led retreats integrating writing and hiking. Her forthcoming book Afoot: Groundwork for Creative Walkers is an interactive journal that teaches readers how to harness the power of walking to cultivate and nourish attention, inspiration, and determination, as well as combat distraction, anxiety, and the dreaded creative block. Bonnie seeks to help others cultivate creativity, well-being, and peace through by prompting them to engage thoughtfully and contemplatively with the natural world.