I took a walk. I take a walk a lot of days. I live in a suburban
community where everybody walks. They have dogs they must
walk. They have kids they must air. Or they are old enough
that they must walk to stay relatively healthy, relatively
young, relatively thin and relatively supple.
I fall in between the airing-my-kids and maintaining-my-mobility
category. Iím just the person who is too old to have toddlers,
too distracted to go to the gym when itís sunny and too congenitally
cold to walk a dog.
So I just walk. Because I know itís good for me.
However, Iím not a very good walker. I have to steel myself
to do it. Because I donít like doing things that arenít really
doing anything. When I walk I feel as though I should
be going someplace. And often enough, I am: Iím going to the
grocery store, the bank, CVS, the wine store. But the fact
is, other times Iím not always going places. I might be going
in circles on these tidy suburban streets. Or I might be going
up and back on the bike path, ceding the right-of-way to stone-thighed
cyclists or just to your average couple out to burn some calories
and use their lungs.
Sometimes I walk because itís a way of keeping me from doing
other things Iím supposed to be doing, like balancing my checkbook
or doing the laundry. Fortunately I donít live close enough
to a Laundromat that I could walk to it. Otherwise, Iíd have
no excuses for my procrastination.
Iíve heard people talk about walking meditations. In fact,
staying at a retreat center one time, I saw a bunch of people
doing some Zen walking meditation. It involved them looking
tres, tres serieux and putting one step gingerlyóOK,
mindfullyóin front of the other. They moved very slowly.
There was no chance that they were going anywhere: not the
bank, not the Laundromat, not the grocery store.
That is not the kind of meditation I would want to do. In
fact, meditation and I arenít best friends. I get too bored.
My teeming interior mental life wonít quiet down as I review
and reflect on lifeís obligations and quandaries. So sometimes
when I walk I count. What am I counting? Steps, I guess. But
then, somewhere in the 70s or 80s, I get bored and my mind
reverts to thoughts of national significanceówhat a lout Ben
Roethlisberger isóor personal importanceódo I really want
to buy a pair of those shoes that look like toe socks and
really arenít very flattering?
Often, when I walk I phone people I know and love.
Though there are a select few of those I know and love, I
mostly donít like to talk on the phone to anybody. Ever. Iím
not a phone person. But when I walk, Iím able to talk on the
phone. I think it makes me feel as if Iím going somewhere.
Even if Iím going in circles.
But today, when I walked, those select few I know and love
are busy not answering their phones.
I completely understand what it means to be busy not answering
And so I walk in silence, going nowhere, with no destination,
no errand to accomplish.
Suddenly, and in spite of myself, I notice Iím not aimlessly
counting. Nor am I mindlessly thinking about how I really
ought to learn about good cholesterol and bad cholesterol
with little intention of really doing that.
Suddenly Iím having what I can only call a mini-meditative
It is very quiet as I walk. I notice the flowers in immoderate
and early blossom. I notice a cardinalóa male, it must beóflapping
along ahead of me. He seems quite fearless as I approach and
I assume there must be a well-stocked bird-feeder behind the
stand of hemlock into which he disappears, all red flounce
I cross a major street that is, for reasons unbeknownst to
me, closed until May 10. So there is no traffic. Which means
there is near silence. I walk across the street and look into
the windows of houses still too full of sunlight to admit
my gaze. When you walk at nightfall, you can look into the
houses of other people and glimpse a way of life different
from your own life. But in the late afternoon, you canít see
insideóthe houses are mute facades that leave you with your
own thoughts instead of musings about the fortunes and misfortunes
of other peoplesí lives.
I walked around the edges of a small park and heard the wind
as a soft whisper in the otherwise still and silent air. And
I stopped in front of a blossoming lilac bush, lowering my
head into the cloud of purple aroma. And eventually, I made
my way back home, calmed, quiet, not willing to go back inside
right away, not wanting to answer the question ďSo how was
your walk?Ē because Iím not quite ready to say, ďoh, it was
very meditative, my walk.Ē Even though it really was.