Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Take a Hike

It was a crisp, sunny day today and I thought for the millionth time that if I'm going to make it through to April without resembling and feeling like a mobile piece of fungus, I need to get out in the fresh air and take walks.

Except this: I kind of have a walk phobia.

Seriously, you say. PeaceBang, that is too neurotic even for you.

It's true, though. I don't know what it comes from, but it takes a lot of gumption for me to head down the hill from the house to take a walk. I've done it pretty frequently in the past year -- especially when the weather is perfect -- and I feel safe in our little woodland preserve. It's about 2 miles around the loop, and I like to stop at the edge of the North River where there's a little cabin on the water and look at the sparkles on the water, and breathe. Sometimes I stretch out on the warm deck. Sometimes other walkers find me there and I smile sheepishly up at them, i-Pod buds in my ears.

Emerson said that he and his daughter Ellen were professors of walkology. In fact, the whole Transcendentalist movement could be fairly said to have been conducted during walks shared by brilliant friends. Think of Margaret Fuller and Hawthorne, or Emerson and Thoreau, or Emerson and Alcott, or Thoreau and Melville and --Moby Dick and Hester Prynne! Wait! No! They're not real people! --
all strolling through Walden woods expounding on great literary and spiritual themes.

Think about it, then think about how frozen with awkward paralysis PeaceBang feels when she's ready to head out the door for a walk.

How does one go for a walk?
A time step, I can do. A waltz. A foxtrot, even.
A saunter from point A to point B in Barcelona, I can do.
A stroll into the village to pick up a baguette and some raspeberries, I'm good at.
A purposeful stride from Macy's all the way over to Nordstrom's to get to a shoe sale, eat my dust.
But a pointless WALK, the good ole American WALK, I am at a loss. I feel like a total tool. Nothing makes me more self-conscious.

I live on a busy main street, so a walk down my own street is fraught with dangers: busy suburbanites whizzing by in big SUVs, a latte in one hand and a cell phone in the other. I've taken walks down my street to get to littler streets, but I always feel endangered. And then it just seems ridiculous to drive somewhere to take a walk.

I prefer city walks. I like to people-watch and window shop, and to get lost in a crowd. I do not like country walks. Again... what do you people do on walks? Maybe Dan Harper will coach me on this. He seems to be a real pro. I am jealous of his ability to take WALKS.

When I lived in Pennsylvania, my senior colleague and his lovely wife arose early every morning and took walks together. I have always thought that this was the most romantic thing of all time. Walking, talking, planning the day, being wholesome and outdoorsy together in their matching LL Bean fleece pullovers. Boy, is that not me.

But I still think it's important to take walks.

There. Now you feel exceedingly well-adjusted, don't you? And the next time you take a walk, you'll wrack your brain trying to figure out why anyone on earth could make such a difficult job of it.


Blogger Ian said...

Step one: remove the iPod buds.
Step two: really observe what is happening around you.
Step three: ask, "what the heck is that?" or "why is that happening?" or a million and one other questions
Step four: take a shot at a provisional answer
Step five: Google is your friend, check out your hypotheses when you get home
Step six: repeat steps one through five checking out if anything observed the first time occurs again

I can't understand staying inside when there is all that stuff going on in nature! Give me 15 minutes outside at ANTS and I'll bet I can point out close to a dozen bird species for you. It really is just too much fun!

Blogger LaReinaCobre said...

Do you pace when you're talking on the telephone?

Blogger Shawna Renee said...

I like to pray the rosary when I walk. I count off the Hail Marys on my fingers.

Blogger fausto said...

Moby Dick didn't have any feet, but I think I did see Hiawatha out for a stroll with Tashtego along the beach at Gay Head the last time I was there.

Anonymous anniesmom said...

I started walking in December, alone, and enjoyed looking at all the Christmas decorations. That helped me get the habit started.

Across from the apartment complex where I live there's a quiet subdivision that was built in the 1960s. It's all flat, not much traffic, and I trust walking in the street instead of the uncertain sidewalks. I cover about two miles each night, then use an exercise mat to stretch (so I can move the next morning).

The benefits have been good: my stress level is down, I lost 9 lbs. in 5 weeks, and my triglycerides went from 239 to 121. My doctor was thrilled.

While I don't "get" the value of walking a labyrinth, I think my nightly walks serve a similar purpose. There's a lot of stuff that goes through my mind during these walks (Ian's right about removing the iPod buds). Sometimes anger gets walked off, problems pondered, or plans made. At the same time, I get to greet other walkers and take note of any neighborhood changes. Whatever works for you, I highly recommend it.

Blogger Anna said...

Don't feel bad PB. I have the same weird neurosis. I can walk to get somewhere, or just take a walk with someone if they initiate it and we can talk during it, but to just go out of my house and walk, I just can't quite bring myself to it. Of course, I've always felt a little on display when walking outdoors in neighborhoods, and perhaps would do better if I had a woods on my own property in which to explore, as I did as a child.


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