It’s crazy how many things no longer interest me. Each year something else is peeled away; dinner parties, music shows where I have to stand, wine tastings, girl’s night out, small-talk, statement handbags, eye makeup, networking, expensive multi-course meals. This is by no means an exhaustive list.
Conversely, my love for a few things has deepened. Walking is one. I am a dedicated walker. Not in the way of someone who tracks their steps and heart rate (fitbits and the like feel joyless to me), more in the way of a meditative practice. I walk briskly, but that is my natural tempo.
I love the side by side intimacy of walking with another person. I did my best parenting on walks with my daughter. With nothing in front of us but our steps I told her about myself and being a woman. Anyone who’s raised a teenage girl knows how hard it can be to get them to talk to you, but on our walks she opened right up. One of my favorite memories is of a nature walk we took when she was about six. She held my hand and perfectly explained the life cycle of a butterfly.
There is romance in walking. Sometimes the love affair is in discovering a new city; feeling energized by it’s rhythms and architecture. Paris, New York and Barcelona were nothing but days of walking and finding yummy things to eat.
Actual romances blossom during walks too. It’s nice to flirt and chat without being shackled to a restaurant chair. Walking and teasing with a handsome man who laughs at my jokes is a direct line to my heart. Always has been.
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
Much has been written about nature walks I could hardly improve upon. The feeling I get after a good hike is similar to being high, or listening to jazz in the bathtub on a Sunday afternoon. My brain bathed in all those good endorphins.
Last Wednesday I had fifteen hollow, plastic tubes surgically installed into my breast to allow for targeted radiation. These implants skirt the line between medieval torture device and cutting-edge medicine. Either way, it’s left me unable to do a whole lot, except walk.
I live twelve blocks from the hospital where I get my care. That means I walk to surgery, check-ups, and radiation treatments. My current regimen has me showing up to the hospital twice a day, which is about four miles of walking (still less than my normal routine). It’s an odd feeling to show up invigorated by a brisk walk to a waiting room of infirm fellow patients. It reminds me to be grateful in the midst of difficulty.
Walking is a tonic, a way of being alone that isn’t lonely.
I walk when I despair because it’s all I can do. I walk when all is going well, and I can’t wait to get out the door. I walk to take photographs and pay close attention to the details of my environment. I walk to take deep breaths and align my thinking. Some days the ideas come quickly and I have to stop repeatedly to jot down notes, or laugh at my jokes. I walk to cry and still move forward.
In 2014 I moved to a city where I had no work and few friends, largely to participate in a walking lifestyle. My heels have been relegated to the back of the closet. Looking sexy rarely prevails over the chance to walk.
I feel connected to my girlhood when I walk the city. My teenage years were spent roaming D.C., unencumbered from grownup scrutiny. The city was my refuge from an unhappy home. My feet, my freedom.
Now, I walk to celebrate my body’s resilience. When I step out the door I feel like the girls I used to watch jumping into a game of double dutch. Just slide on in and go.