March On

What you might find on a long walk, a determined walk, a walk of exploration, you never know, of course, until you take the next step.  And the next; and the next—in Rory Stewart’s case, across the constantly revelatory terrain of the borderlands shared since Roman times by England and Scotland.

To what end?  Do we care?

There are ample reasons to care, starting with Stewart’s accomplishments as walker and earnest, informative tour guide: his eyes, ears, and notebook perpetually open, his native curiosity on constant display.  Stewart’s compact chronicle of an extended walk through Afghanistan (of all places) in 2002 (of all times) earned him international acclaim and a raft of prizes.

The British, we have come to understand, are famous walkers through, and chroniclers of, fascinating, occasionally hostile, terrains: the late Patrick Leigh Fermor being possibly the most highly honored of the breed.  Stewart on his present trajectory may achieve similar eminence.

So, first, what is a “march”?  The military connotations of the word are not misplaced.  A march is an ill-defined territory productive of deadly rivalry—“a zone of fighting and cross-border raids.”  The land is Stewart’s own, figuratively and historically speaking: a rich wedge of territory between Scotland and England.  His forebears here go...

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