reason one :: walking & stories
For as long as I can remember, I have loved to walk and think of stories. It seemed so natural to me, that I was surprised to discover early on in marriage, that Evan did not do the same thing. He, if left with open time on a walk or long car ride, thinks in song. But I, from a very young age, would walk around trees and bushes in my yard and neighborhood whispering stories aloud to myself. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve dropped the habit of whispering, but I still love to walk and daydream. Since I was small, I’ve known that walking could be creative.
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reason two :: walking & talking
As I’ve gotten older, walking has taken on new dimensions. The summer before college, I started taking walks with friends. I was also saying goodbye to a host of high school friends, so I’d call someone up and ask her to go on a walk with me. Older friends, who had already been off to college for a year or two, offered up their advice as we meandered underneath shivering aspens. Walking could be social.
reason three :: walking & exploring
In college, I started running. I ran along Illinois parks in swirls of fall leaves or to the crunch of snow. The summer I spent in France, I learned about the independence of running through a city. I liked that I didn’t really need to talk to anyone in my mediocre French. I joined the pedestrian mass of the city and ran along the Seine from the Eiffel Tower all the way to the Louvre. Walking could be adventurous.
reason four :: walking & loving
But I ran so very slowly that it turned out walking fast was only a slightly longer time commitment, and caused considerably fewer injuries, and provided fewer reasons I could make up to not do it. I think that Evan and I might have tried to go for a run together maybe all of two times. At 6’4” my soccer loving husband likes to sprint, and even his “slower” runs had such long strides that he could mostly just walk briskly next to my jog. I ran just enough to understand and respect why people love it, but walking is a better fit for me. Evan and I love to walk, or as we term walking in state and regional parks, going on hikes. We’ve had some of our best talks on hikes, so I learned that walking could be for connection.
reason five :: walking & walking away
I’ve also found that walking could be for escape. When I think back to my favorite times during graduate school, they were walking. I loved to walk around the neighborhood of Georgetown with its cobblestones and beautiful rose gardens. I love to walk up Wisconsin Avenue, the 5 and half miles to a Panera in Friendship Heights, and then sit there with a splash of hazelnut coffee in my white mug filled with decaf. It was probably a sign that the life of the academy wasn’t for me that I just loved to avoid work by walking. But a long daily walk was one of the foundational habits to getting better after I was so sick during grad school.
Now, in a life after grad school, I learned to walk the same path through the seasons. I’ve looked forward to the plum tree blossoming next to the showy cherry trees. I’ve learned to walk with strollers and baby carriers, coaxing unwilling toddlers up hills, stopping to examine ant hills along the way. My walks have changed to reflect the different seasons and companions of my life.
walking & self-care
Walks are my favorite form of self-care. Last week, I wrote about three guiding questions for self-care practice. Can you invest in it? Do you enjoy it? Does it have long-term benefits? Over the next few weeks we’ll explore more about each of these aspects of walking as models for self-care. We’ll look at how walking has a low investment of money, but a high investment of time, and how I enjoy it a lot more than running, so I tend to do it more. And we’ll look at how walking about four miles a day seems to be one of the only things besides a good nights sleep and a large serving of vegetables that health experts universally agree are good for you.
Evan refers to these walks often as my preferred form of caring for myself. (He’s not big on the term “self-care;” he thinks it’s a little self-help-y. It’s ok; I don’t mind being a little self-help-y. But there are plenty of terms for talking about disciplines that are good to invest in if you too don’t like the term self-care.) If I’m having a really horrible day, Evan will send me out for a walk. I have a 4 mile loop that I make time for most days. On weekends or off days, there is a 6 mile version that goes through a series of well kept soccer fields next to a wooded county park. Everything seems less overwhelming after a good walk.
reason six :: walking & listening
Finally, Anne, at Modern Mrs. Darcy, just posted a beautiful reflection on Adam McHugh’s new book that has a chapter on the spiritual discipline of the long walk. I don’t often consciously pray on long walks, but the beauty of nature and the meditative rhythm of walking often has a way of loosening my tight grip on the list of what’s wrong, and helping me notice all the sparrows in the trees and lilies in the field God cares for: walking can be restorative.
Why do you walk—to think, to daydream, to talk, to explore, to connect, to escape, or to be restored?
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