I believe in walking.
Thoreau said, “It comes only by the grace of God. It requires a direct dispensation from Heaven to become a walker. You must be born into the family of the Walkers.”
My grandmother was a walker. She walked up and down the steep hills of Troy, New York—eschewing the city bus–to visit stores downtown. My mother and father, too, are daily walkers.
I married a walker.
Walking is an act of love. My wife and I have walked together for twenty-five years. We walk around our town, seeing the changing landscape, the new houses coming up, noticing the colors of trees, the blooming of wildflowers, guessing at the origin of bird or animal sounds that we hear. Lately, we have been watching a new house go up a few miles from our house. I call it a “Contractor’s Dream” because its scope appears to be constantly changing: new walls coming up and down, additions of porches that seem like after thoughts. Ka-ching, Ka-ching for every new entrance and whimsically-set portico! Truthfully, my wife is the careful observer of the goings-on around us. I like hearing her voice describe the things she sees or hears during our walks. We have walked together in Washington, DC, in London, Paris, Jerusalem, and in many other places and terrains. We have climbed mountains, sauntered down hills to river beds, and walked on a volcano.
Thoreau also said that, “…you must walk like a camel, which is said to be the only beast which ruminates when walking.” When we walk, we talk to each other and listen to our dreams and fears, and challenge each other’s reasoning about people and their motives. And we laugh. And we cry. We have walked to births and graduations, and to sickbeds and gravesites. Walking sets the rhythm of our life. Sometimes the pace of walking is terribly slow—it would be much better to run through tragedies—but in good times, the pace is never too slow.
I believe that walking is a tonic. Sometimes walking is more than one is capable of doing. Sometimes it’s the only thing one can do. I recently suffered a carotid artery dissection and my emotions in response to this accident have vacillated between depression and resignation and boredom. I have not strayed too far from bed and couch, and I have felt my interest in life wane. (I am not a good patient.) Recently, I did receive some wonderful news when my doctor told me matter-of-factly that walking was “ok”. To me, this news was more than “ok”. This news was life-affirming. What wonderful news this was indeed! And, I couldn’t wait to share it with my wife, as I surely would, before we tied our shoes, stepped outside our door, to check up on the “Contractor’s Dream.”
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.