“But the beauty is in the walking — we are betrayed by destinations.”
― Gwyn Thomas
A palm reader once told me I was one of those people who didn’t need to travel to learn about life. I was one of those people, she said, who understood that all life contains could be encountered in her own backyard.
This is a good thing because, although movement and travel have been part of my life, home has been the bigger part, especially since I began working out of my house 12 years ago. The more I am here, the more I am here, is how it seems to go.
In my last blog post, though, I outed myself as a yearning walker. A pilgrim in search of a journey that was not just metaphorical.
I wrote that a woman sometimes “needs to let in the wind, rain, sun, and to feel the blisters on her feet harden. She needs to let her body lead her sometimes and to trust it no matter her age.”
It appears that I am not alone. Since writing that post, I have been involved in conversations on email and Facebook with other women who travel hundreds of miles by foot whenever they can or who have been thinking a long time about starting out on a pilgrimage. Each woman has her own reasons, her own goal. Some have called themselves “wanderers” rather than walkers.
The common thread seems to be that we all see the difference between a direct encounter with our physical world and rolling through it in a car or flying over it. Some of us know a certain restlessness that sharpens in the wake of passing time. Some of us want to sink into the world instead of our smart phones or our busy-ness and just see what happens. One writer, not a walker, said something the other night that resonates with me still: “I want to live in my story. I’ll know then what there is to write, if anything.”
This has been a significant year in my life journey. Good news came in the form of a book deal. A new novel is starting to emerge. This is the work I’ve wanted to do ever since I was a kid. To do it right requires as much planning and being present as preparing for and starting any kind of extended journey by foot. Much is going on with family and friends I hold dear. On top of that, my body delivered a bruising reminder during the holidays that it can limit my plans, or at least my ability to execute them, at a moment’s notice. Ironically, I fell ill the very day that I bought my new walking shoes and am only now getting to wear them.
Like most folks, I have learned that I can’t always do it all or not all at once. So, this may not be the year I lace up my shoes and walk the entire California coast from Mexico to Oregon.
It can be the year, however, that I walk some of it. It can be the year that I ask more of my body and my mind than I did last year. I can walk wherever I happen to be and notice people, smells, colors. I can set goals for distance and miles walked.
I’m aiming for 800 miles or about 15 miles a week by foot. I don’t know where I’ll walk, only that I will walk. I will leave the car at home more often and use my feet to get to places I need to be. I will walk in places I know and places I’ve never been, starting here in my own city. When I walk, I will not listen to music or talk on the telephone. I will look, feel, think, seek encounters. I will smile at strangers. I will open myself up to possibility. I will take one step at a time and maybe, at some point, it will become clear to me why I am walking and where I am going.
Selfishly, I know that reading what others can teach me about their own desire to feed body, soul, mind, or art by walking will help me get out the door on those days when it is hard to imagine leaving my desk. Maybe you have a long-held dream to walk the Camino de Santiago, or to walk from Maine to Washington along the border with Canada. Maybe you are walking that walk right now. Maybe you take people on walking tours for a living. Maybe you are a photographer who ventures by foot to nearby or hard-to-reach places to bring back images that tell a story. Maybe you are one of those people who know how to notice the the world in the course of an amble from your door to your mailbox.
With this post, I am creating space on my blog for dispatches from the journey, not just mine but for anyone with a story or thoughts to share about your journey. Progress. Things learned. The planning process. A poem. Discoveries. Meditations. The flowers, animals, people you encounter along the way. Books that inspired you, guided you.
I am going to look for you and link to your posts or reblog them here. I also invite you to get in touch, let me know about your walking journey and write a post here or send me a link to a post from your own blog and I will happily reblog. If you are a photographer and want to share the sights you captured along the way with more folks, let’s connect. This invitation goes out to men, women, old, and young. Anyone with two feet, a walk or desire to undertake one, and a desire to share the journey.
At least once a month, I will post in the new section “Walkers: Dispatches from the Journey.” Hope to catch you along the way.
P.S. Happy New Year! Whatever your hopes and intentions for 2015, may you find them in the months ahead.