What a walk can't cure
"But to me the exile's always wretched, Like a convict, or a patient. Wanderer your road is dark, And the bread of strangers tastes bitter." —from "I'm not one of those who left their land," Anna Akhmatova*
Last weekend I had to force myself go for a walk. After several years of writing and researching about walking, I still have to do this sometimes: make myself walk when I know I need it.
I was in a glum mood, sad and bordering on grumpy, and it was a beautiful day with no commitments. My brother-in-law had sent me an album with a melancholy but light tone appropriate to my mood and the sun-dappled day. I’ve mostly weaned myself off of listening to something while walking but felt like it that day. Sometimes the right music can short-circuit the ruminations.
And so I walked for two hours, a lot of it through parts of town I rarely visit—where there are new bike and pedestrian paths!—and along the river, where I looked for and did not see any muskrats.
Toward the end of that time, when I emerged to visit the grocery store and walk home along the highway, I felt better.
I spent years researching walking. I wrote a book about it. I walked thousands of miles. I believe in what walking can do for each of us and our communities. And somehow I still have to drag myself out on a regular basis, prove to myself once again its potential for knitting good back into our lives.
When I went away to a forest service cabin again for a couple of days this week, I found myself reading through four books on walking and movement. The themes are ones I’ve explored countless times: grounding, community, physical and mental health, and what it means to reconnect with ourselves and the world around us. It amazes me how something you’ve encountered a hundred times can still feel new.
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