In Deshimaru's zen practice, the walking is barely walking. A breath, a step. One foot just ahead of the other. Attention to the bend of the ankle, the meeting of floor and toes.

The pace of the walk on the trail from Vernazza to Monterossa al Mare, on the Ligurian Coast of Italy, is quicker, but almost as deliberate. The stones have barely been worn by all the feet that have passed over them, in boots, in all kinds of shoes, perhaps the crudest kind of foot coverings, even bare feet since the first people settled here just a few hundred years after the birth of Christ. Steep yes, the climb up and the pause to look back at the tower on the breakwater. Then up, up, high above the turquoise Ligurian sea and its white ruffle along the bottom of the cliff. More up, sometimes via steps that have been made from the stones, at other points by root-held earth. Thoughts arise as they do in any kind of meditation. The image of a clock whose hands turn from point to point, all labelled now. The memory of a sister's stern yet loving face, and of an elderly friend who says she hasn't the energy to do as much as she used to do, and so she takes pleasure in the moment. Clouds passing, for example. A flower. There are flowers here. Honeysuckle? Something so sweet smelling you search for the blossoms, but this trail is more forested than the trail between Corniglia and Vernazza. Above, in the clearings between tree tops, there are vineyards seemingly impossible to reach. Here a stone bridge, and, now that the morning's older, people coming from the other direction.

Pick up your feet, he said, once when you stumbled on the lip of an uneven sidewalk and fell. Pick up your feet. Recalling those words and the clock whose pointer moves from now to now to now. The path is so narrow at points, you have to paste yourself against the cliffside to let others pass, those who may have started at the same early hour, but from the other end. All the stairs you've heard about. Go towards what you fear. When the steps down begin, a couple coming towards you stops for a breath and the woman says, there's a town down there, believe it or not. Counting as you plant your foot, one hundred, two hundred finally four hundred steps descend to the shack where the national park controller waits to see the required passes. The town is still twenty to thirty minutes ahead, but it's about the journey, not the destination, and you're not there yet.