Regular readers of this writer may remember several columns over the years in which I have praised walking. I still value walking, though I don’t walk as much, due to some arthritis in my hip.

I’ve come across a new approach to walking, which has encouraged me to slow down and reflect more while walking. I give credit for this insight to a 17th-century Japanese poet and a 19th-century American essayist.

The American essayist is Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), who lived most of his life in the small village of Concord, Massachusetts, the same town in which other famous American authors lived, including Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Louisa May Alcott.

The Japanese poet, born Matsuo Kinsaku (1644-1694, later chose Basho as his pen name. He lived in Kyoto and then Tokyo (in his time known as Edo).

To be sure, it’s an odd couple of walkers/writers. I’ve known about Thoreau’s enjoyment of walking for a long time, but I just recently came across the walking history of Basho.

Among his many books, Basho wrote “The Narrow Road to the Deep North,” in which he  describes his travels, mostly on foot, and intersperses his prose with very short poems.

Basho walked a lot. In “The Narrow Road,” he recounts a journey he started in May 1689 which ended five months later, covering 1,200 miles. He was not, moreover, a young man walking; he was 45 years old when he did this.

It’s no wonder he stopped often to compose haiku, short poems consisting of only a few lines.

Thoreau, although he did not travel on foot as many miles as Basho, walked a lot. Like Basho, he often stopped, not to write poems but to observe the nature of the landscape. When he returned to his desk, he wrote essays about his observations.

One of his essays, simply titled “Walking,” was published posthumously in the Atlantic Monthly magazine in 1862. It was based on a lecture he first gave in Concord in 1851 and gave again several other times before he died.

In “Walking” Thoreau talks about the value of walking not quickly but slowly, slow enough to stop and carefully observe the details of nature around him. He writes about “the art” of walking and suggests the best way to walk is to “saunter” or “meander” like a slowly flowing stream.

Thoreau adds that the art of walking involves “leisure, freedom and independence.” He suggests that when we start a walk we should forget all of our “occupations and obligations” and instead leisurely enjoy the beauty of whatever we encounter, be it a tree, a shrub, a flower, the sky and so forth.

On a good walk, Thoreau says, we should ignore “man and his affairs: church and state and school, trade and commerce, manufactures and agriculture, even politics, the most alarming of them all.”

Instead, Thoreau asks us to focus on the landscape around us. He described one of his walks during which the twilight sun illumined the grass, “the stems of trees” and “the leaves of shrubs,” casting long shadows, a moment, he writes, to be savored, a moment unlike any other.

Over the years in writing my columns, I’ve followed the example of Thoreau in writing about the pleasures of walking. It was only  recently, however, that I tried to follow the example of Basho.

Basho in “The Narrow Road” briefly describes the places he visits and the people he encounters. His travel writing in prose enables us to experience what he sees and feels.

But what makes his book especially memorable is that he frequently interjects a short poem, or haiku, about what he observes.

He begins this paragraph in prose, for example: “As I stood, lending my ears to the roar of the pine trees upon the distant mountains, I felt moved deep in the bottom of my heart” to write this short poem: “In the utter darkness / Of a moonless night / A powerful wind embraces / The ancient cedar trees.”

At another time in his travels he interjects this haiku, “I like to wash / By way of experiment / The dust of this world / In the droplets of dew.”

By the way, I need to give credit to the translator of Basho whose English version I’m using, Nobuyuki Yuasa.

While I claim to be a decent columnist, I don’t claim to be a talented poet. However, that didn’t stop me from following Basho’s example and writing a few haiku during some of my short walks, especially along the canal trail in Los Banos.

This past November I felt “inspired” to write two short poems about weather: “Cursing it since July / I welcome in November / The sun on my face” and  “After so many dry / Months I savor the first / Sweet drops of November.”

Later, while walking on the canal trail, I wrote “I know these tall trees/ On my walking path so well / I call each by name.”

More recently, walking by an orchard, I wrote, “Snow falling on the ground / And on the branches. No, / It’s almond blossoms.

At this point, I know many of my readers are saying, “Oh, brother. This crazy columnist thinks he’s a poet now. Fear not. I don’t intend to share any more of my poor attempts at haiku or any other poems in this space in the future.

I include them today simply as one way of encouraging my readers to slow down during a walk, taking the time to see, hear and feel the surroundings.

If any of my readers take this as an invitation to “saunter” more often, observing and reflecting as they walk, then sharing my thoughts and words today will have been worthwhile.