And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. (Isaiah 30:21 ESV)
Have you ever considered taking a walk, as an art? The flaneur, is a person, who takes an idle stroll, preferably along a scenic river, like the Seine. This practice of flanerie seems well suited to city dwellers, where shops, cafes and book stalls are in close proximity. Some people trek in the mountains for recreation. Or others take urban hikes to their local museums.
If you live in the suburbs, taking a walk is something you do with your dog, your baby or maybe a friend. Suburbanites, as far as my experience, do not amble around the neighborhood for pleasure. Maybe for their health, they will take a walk, but they definitely don’t walk to the store or the library or the post office, because in most cases those destinations are at least a mile from their home. (I used to walk our boys to school, a couple streets over to the elementary school, but now the bus picks up the kids who live across the street from our house.) I am not saying that suburbanites are less likely to walk than others, but when we walk it’s with intention. For instance, we walk to gain 2000 more steps on our Fitbit, to meet our 10,000 step goal for the day.
It’s all good. I like a good walk, whatever the reason. Almost eight years ago, I went on my first solo hike along the coast of Scotland. It was an ambitious route for a beginner. Twelve miles on a rainy day, in hiking boots that once wet and soggy gave me a nice big blister on my heel. Looking back on pictures from that adventure, I was inspired to take a local hike.
Last Monday, on a sunny, balmy February day, I crossed two streams carrying a few books, pocket change and my smart phone in my rucksack/purse thingy. The two streams were highways with rushing traffic passing under my path, and the books were to be returned at our local library.
I started out at a brisk pace. After crossing the main road to our subdivision, I loosened my scarf, as the sun warmed my face. I huffed up the hill, and the four library books started to weigh on me. I broke a sweat, and rearranged my bag because the strap was biting into my shoulder. I crossed one intersection, only a few blocks from home now. The library still several blocks away, or so it seemed. The chain link fence bordering the sidewalk threw shadows across my path.
At the library, I deposited my books, checked out another book, and paused at the vending machines, wondering if I would need sustenance for the rest of my trek. I decided that I could make it with my water bottle alone.
From the library, I headed downhill to St. Charles Rock Road and to my next destination. The sidewalk was barely a safe haven from the rushing traffic. Did most pedestrians feel this same unease, when I whizzed past them in my mini-SUV? And why did it feel like everyone was staring at me? (For most of my hike, I was the lone pedestrian.)
As I got closer to the corner, I felt intimidated about crossing the Rock Road. I cut through the gas station parking lot, and past the China Buffet and bus stop. The sensory benefits of this walk comforted me, like the warm sun on my face, the aroma of pizza baking at Pizza Hut, and pungent Chinese food simmering on the buffet. I noticed someone dropped their water bottle at the bus stop, and lots of trash smashed along the gutter of the street.
I crossed at the light by Petsmart, again feeling a bit vulnerable from cars turning off the main road. When the signal changed, I darted across the road looking in all directions, and sensing everyone was scrutinizing me.
As I made my way past Applebee’s, I came upon two pedestrians who were walking side by side on the sidewalk. Neither one made a move, so I had to step off the sidewalk to get past them. I arrived at Hobby Lobby to buy some adhesives for my photo album project. I stowed my purchases, and considered a pit stop at Subway for lunch, but decided I could eat at home.
On the way back, my confidence soared. Crossing the road wasn’t as intimidating, I stopped caring what the outside world thought of my intentional walking, and I noticed someone picked up the lost water bottle at the bus stop.
I met a couple more walkers on the way up the hill past the library. One was walking home from the high school. Another one, was a fast paced woman, who appeared to be on her lunch break. She breezed up the hill to get her steps in for the day.
The walk back seemed quicker, and I snapped a couple pictures of the “streams” I crossed. At home, I enjoyed lunch and I checked my Fitbit. I logged five miles round trip. Not bad for a suburban hike.
How does setting an intention help you? Share one of your most memorable hikes in the comments, or write about it in your journal.