I went for a walk this morning for the first time in it seems like forever. It used to be a regular occurrence a few years ago when I started in the early summer and stopped in the late fall, just before the snow began to fall hard and heavy. At first it was because my doctor told me I needed something that resembled exercise to help my general health. It was about the same time we bought the treadmill, but I think that was a coincidence.
Regardless, I prescribed myself a regimen of walking for at least half an hour every night, like clockwork. This was before we had children so there was no babysitter to pick them up from, nor a time limit before bath time, so I could wander. And for a while I did just that. I started out north, generally, sticking to the sidewalks and the straight lines they provided, turning when a street intersected the one I was on, the direction a last minute decision.
On my journey I would pass by places I had never seen before, interspersed with familiar surroundings and houses that grew even more familiar the more I traveled at dusk. Others would be out and about, too, quite unlike the emptiness of a Ray Bradbury short story, playing and talking, and even just sitting on porches. They would smile and wave at me as I passed, and I would acknowledge them in return. I’m sure I became a fixture in their evening lives as they became affixed in mine, that guy who always walked by as if he were on a mission.
I would wear my headphones to block out the sounds, though, so I was never sure if birds were chirping or dogs were barking, all I knew was that they appeared and disappeared as I approached and eventually passed, opening and closing their mouths as if they were trying to tell me a secret. I would nod at them, too, as if they were old friends, even the occasional cat sitting in a yard yawning. I was equal opportunity. Then I would walk on.
Sometimes I took a different turn and found myself in wooded areas where there were more trees than anything else. And sometimes the music in my ears would match that atmosphere, all acoustic and insular but wide open at the same time. I loved those times, even though they frightened me as well. I guess I never thought about how much seeing other people comforted me on my journeys, as if they grounded me to the world in specific ways that nature couldn’t replicate. Now, looking back, I find that ironic in a way I could have never appreciated back then.
I walked to forget, and I walked to remember at the same time: to forget all the tedious moments in my day, and to remember that beauty is what I make of it, wherever I choose to find it. Perhaps it’s in the pile of leaves that crunch underneath my boots in the fall, or in the smile on the little girl’s face who waves to me from her bike, or maybe even in the early Christmas lights on the house down the street, all lit up every night promptly at 7 o’clock. It’s in the moving, the shifting, the drifting through my world and realizing that it doesn’t just belong to me.
It’s in walking on.