“Walking, ideally, is a state in which the mind, the body, and the world are aligned, as though they were three characters finally in conversation together, three notes suddenly making a chord.”
~Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking
Most mornings I walk.
Herb and I leave the house as early as the sunrise allows, making our way along a route we’ve carved through quiet streets that wind along rolling hills and flat pavement. It’s a routine I’ve come to depend on, a chance to clear the cobwebs and crystalize the day’s plans. As we set out, our conversation picks up speed with our steps, a synchronicity of spirit never seeming to run out of things to say.
There is a sociability amid this early morning solitude, neighbors in their own walking worlds whom we happen upon at the same spots, at the same time, like clocks marking the minutes along the way. We exchange greetings by name with some; others we know only from this routine of time and place. “Good morning,” we all say as we continue walking, walking, walking.
I think of the walks we’ve taken on our travels, the great cities we’ve explored on foot and that feeling of wondrous curiosity when we’ve turned a new corner or headed down an unfamiliar road. There were street musicians singing opera in Bilbao, a museum staircase painted to look like an Impressionistic work of art in Vienna, the delicious aroma of something cinnamon from a street we could only find by “following our noses” in Rhodes.
I remember our walk in Sydney, Australia, from Bondi to Coogee Beach that took us along fabulously changing terrain, stunning ocean trails, lovely hidden bays and even an historic nineteenth century cemetery. Look at that, I found myself whispering and sometimes blurting out loud. Look at that.
In his classic 1862 essay, beloved writer and philosopher Henry David Thoreau described walking as “the enterprise and adventure of the day.” He celebrated the mental benefits of walking as well, advising readers to “walk like a camel, which is said to be the only beast which ruminates while walking.” His words remind us that whether we find adventure in some faraway land or in our own backyard, walking is something to be valued and treasured.
“Two or three hours’ walking will carry me to as strange a country as I expect ever to see. A single farmhouse which I had not seen before is sometimes as good as the dominions of the King of Dahomey.”
~Henry David Thoreau, Walking
During these seemingly endless days of maneuvering through the Covid pandemic, our morning walks have taken on a significance far beyond getting a daily dose of cardio. There’s an appreciation for the simple act of putting one foot in front of the other. Of setting out on a short journey to see what the day has to offer. Of aliveness as we breathe in the crisp air. Of moving.
Halfway through our walk, at the bottom of the steepest hill, Herb and I split up. He takes the hills at a brisker pace than I do, pulling his earbuds from a pocket and tuning into music or news or a podcast. I prefer to walk in solitude, listening to the always-entertaining mockingbirds and filling my senses with whatever fragrance the season offers. The landscape is a bit dormant now, but in a few months flowering pink trees will start to bloom, and star-shaped white jasmine blossoms will perfume the air.
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As I walk that final solo stretch of the morning, thoughts that have been rapid-firing in my mind seem to evaporate. It’s as if a window has opened, letting them out into the fresh air, welcoming in a rare gift of stillness and giving me a brief moment of oneness with the world.