Walking Through My Life
I’ve always loved to walk. To propel myself from one place to another. Putting one foot in front of the other. My mother used to tell me that even as a toddler I had a very sure-of-myself confident walk. I am not sure how confident I am now that I am nearing 78 years of age. In fact, to avoid any more falls (I’d had 3 within 9 months a few years back), I am focused on staring at my feet as I walk to be sure I don’t encounter any bumps or other hazards along the way. Even so, this is not a foolproof way of preventing falls. I am easily distracted. By the fresh and cool morning air. By the bright and lovely flowers in the many gardens along the way. By the sounds of chirping birds. By the magnificent and abundant trees along my path which always amaze me. How can they grow so tall and not fall over? And why do the deep lines and furrows of the trees somehow look “distinguished” and even lovely on their massive trunks, but those lines look very different on my own face?
Yet again, how is all this beauty possible? If I walk toward Puget Sound, I am rewarded with beach treasures and the soothing rush of water. And because it is usually very early morning, I am often alone with the Olympic mountains staring back at me. I breathe deeply and say “thank you” to the universe.
How did walking become so important to me?
I remember the call of President John F. Kennedy on March 30, 1962, when he made an important statement on the front lawn of the White House advocating for “proper physical education in schools and healthy physical activity for Americans young and old.” JFK firmly believed that fundamentally, "a country is as strong as its citizens.”
I’d like to say that I jumped on the physical fitness bandwagon right away. Somehow this “push” from our president inspired me. But not my body. I remember trying to get around Seattle’s 2.8 mile Greenlake with my childhood friend, Nadine. I was 16 and she was 18. As I recall, I could barely drag myself around that lake. Seemed like it took forever. Yet, well into my 70s I can now “do” Greenlake much faster than when I was 16. Some might argue: Well, so what? My family will testify to my penchant for bragging about how many steps I do each day. 10,000, 15,000, 20,000? I guess it’s my badge of honor to brag about how many steps I can do. Why?
Well, first of all, I am extremely grateful for the gift of walking. On most mornings, often by 7:30 a.m., I am out walking. Destination? Not terribly important. Sometimes I just start out and end up somewhere! And somehow I also find my way home. Maybe an hour later or even four or five hours later. And if I get tired, well, there is my trusty bus pass which I always bring along.
Our family has an amusing anecdote we like to repeat. We imagine I am living in a nursing home (I hope never). And suddenly I have “escaped” and ”silver alert” is activated. The police are out trying to find me. But the “joke” is that it won’t be easy to find me as I’ve managed to walk like crazy to about 30 miles north of Seattle! Yes, indeed. It could happen. Why? Because for me at this time of my life, being able to put one foot in front of the other remains very important to my quality of life and my ability and wish to connect with others. I remain thankful for this gift and I realize I owe my feet a debt of gratitude for carrying me this far for all these years.