I’m walking more than ever. Like millions of others, I’ve been avoiding my health club. My neighborhood runs up along a hillside. Street’s twist and turn and there are footpaths and while there are dead ends here and there, I’ve walked enough to have discovered many of the secret passageways.
I walk as rain, sun and whim allow. The enlightened walker skips days when I have labored in the yard and the walk only adds unnecessary virtue to the balance of day that is best devoted to vice. Taking self-improvement to heart is one thing, transforming my inner conscience into the barking ravings of some phantom Vince Lombardi is another.
Walking for just over one hour I can accomplish so much. The famous 10,000 steps I can hit within 65-70 minutes. I could improve on that time, but that’s taking the poetry out of the enterprise and replacing it with the instruction manual to a more strident life. Pace, do not get me wrong, is vital and does have a place somewhere in the furthest reaches of my lower stem brain.
Vertical I arrange so I do as much and as steep as I can the earliest in the walk so I might get to that halfway point enjoying the conceit that it’s all downhill from here-on-out, that I’m home-free, that there are mermaids, cocktails and piles of fan mail waiting for me upon my return─ one out of three ain’t too bad.
I prefer a hiking stick. I use a foldable model, carbon fiber, with titanium tips for the street and rubberized tips for times I am scrambling over slickrock. The hiking stick has been useful to fend off dogs too. Twice in the last few months I’ve had dogs bolt from the front door of a home I am walking by to come test my mettle. The first beast was a basset hound mixed with beagle and suffering from dog territoriality syndrome. His efforts to penetrate my defense were for naught, the dog owner assuring me that her dog would never bite anyone─ obvious to me is the dog and owner had not gotten the memo that I wasn’t just anyone! The second was a rottweiler and the same hollow assurances were expressed while I was fending off her agitated living room escape artist. If you misunderstand any of this, take heed and know I adore dogs and until I changed to eating vegan had their pooch like respect. My odor no longer convinces them that I remain a carnivorous like-minded soul, that my possible treats would lack the real thing and that I am an imposter that must be sent fleeing their territory. This is all a pack of wolf nonsense, but the cunning canines and the non-meat eating homo-hikers are in the midst of a climate changing dietary reconfiguration.
Best walks are hard to explain because it might sound odd and have a peculiar ring to the ear. I prefer not dodging speeding cars. I tolerate the other walkers, they have as much right to walk as anyone, this is still a free country, even if that is now time-stamped and in play. Bird encounters from Disney’s special effects department are thrilling. I spend countless walks judging my neighbor’s choice of trees, brush, bush and bloom. Fence geometry is a profound spiritual experience. Gates are by my reckoning a lost opportunity. Door knockers, address lettering, mailboxes all indications of our civilizations decline.
Together we’ve all been thrust upon a new year setting out at the trailhead marked by the past to walk as best we might into this fraught future. Walking without earbuds helps. I’m not sure Neanderthals would believe in earbuds, knowing my Portuguese grandfather would have been utterly appalled, earbuds cannot improve a healing long walk, in fact they may well diminish what gain in self orientation a vivacious walker might enjoy.
You won’t help my cause if you clutter my street. Walking must come from your own inner compass. Willing walkers ready to dance with coyote cries and bobcat scat relish the taste of wild upon their lips. Cougar, bear and rattlesnake are here. I can find tick, black widow, and tarantula here. My favorite misery─ poison oak─ is rampant.
Let’s walk together this year, this new uncertain and fragile moment we all face, let’s walk together, let’s take a walk on the wild side…