Is walking an expression of gratitude, in and of itself? It is certainly a dialogue of trust, between the most ancient manifestation of our human identity and the grassy sweeps of East African savannahs. It turns out those of us who could travel on just 2 feet got a little more of everything a species needs to keep going – food, shelter, babies. Ambulating away from the trees was risky, but staying put was risky too. Two million years later, walking upright looks like a sound evolutionary investment. It made Homo Sapiens a success.
You can walk for fitness all you want, but for me that is “a good walk, spoiled.” Monitoring my heart rate while calculating fuel combustion only served to spread the infection of guilty failure to yet another activity. The pleasure of walking without a timeline, striding along to my body’s native, unhurried pace, recently rehabilitated a more critically wounded facet of my health. Daily walks rescued me from deep anger. I don’t believe it was as simple as walking off the physical side of my emotions, though I am sure anyone who heard my furious mutterings on some of those walks might disagree. Maybe my emotions can’t tell the difference between pounding the pavement, and pounding a nemesis. I think walking gave my anger something to do – literally, a way to move on.
To get away from myself, I do not have to go very far. From my door to Silent Street, where the library, goose pond, prairie and funeral home each stake out a corner, takes just 12 minutes. On the way, I always find the unexpected: a plastic skeleton dangling from a tree, fallen apples crowded in the gutter, maple leaves the size of manhole covers (well, almost.) The price of admission to this spectacle is admitting that I need it. I need to keep moving, and (here’s the gratitude part) I need to relish moving on my own terms, while I still can. Walking confirms my right to be here. It is an expression of selfhood as basic as any hunger. It proves the machinery I need to balance is intact, whether I stroll or stumble. When I walk, I give the sun a chance to shine on me, one step at a time.