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Intentional Walking

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)

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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.

4 thoughts on “Intentional Walking”

  1. Kel, it seems you *always* inspire me! I was so glad to see your last post, and I’m so glad to see this one now. “Coincidentally,” I have been thinking of the name of this month as an invitation to move forward, to *march* on! And yesterday I noticed that the very name of the day kind of shouted, “March fourth/forth!” That morning I watched a squirrel on an electric cable with little option but to do just that, no turning back, and took it as a parable. Later, in the afternoon, I solo-walked some unfamiliar city streets, and thought about how important it is sometimes just to put one foot in front of the other and proceed ever forward, step by small step. So I just loved this post about intentional walking!

  2. Sylvia- You always encourage me, with your observations about life. When I wrote the post, I really wasn’t sure how inspiring it was…I was just having fun recounting my walk and the idiosyncrasies of being a suburban walker. I love your parable about the squirrel and how walking is more than a physical occurrence, but a mental choice to put one foot in front of the other….off I go to march through March…hmmm…might be a post for another day 🙂

  3. Kel
    I’m so glad you sent me this link. I loved the other blog and somehow didn’t realize you were writing two again. One comes to me automatically (as I just discovered), and one does not. I wrote a piece on walking as spiritual practice as my first piece for The Consilium blog, which is no longer active. Sigh… But I’m still walking. Mike, Sheridan, and I walk nearly daily, whether solo, all together, or in combinations of two. While we do go at a fairly quick clip, it isn’t with the intention so much of getting in so many steps or miles or burning so many calories. It’s more to breathe in the fresh air, enjoy one another’s company, see the seasons change before us, meet the neighbors, and meet their dogs. It just doesn’t feel right (like today) when I’ve not gone walking. Mother is here and has been receiving visits from medical staff, so it was harder to get out today. She used to be a great walker, but can no longer do it. That’s a reminder that one may not always have the gift of walking outdoors, so we must do it while we can. I’m always amazed that we don’t meet many neighbors strolling by. We see them more going in and out of their houses or up or down their driveways in their vehicles. I can’t fathom why everyone isn’t out walking. It feels wonderful and changes your perspective on things. Today, think I will revisit that article I wrote, since I can’t get out and stretch my legs. It will be a soulwalk of sorts over tea instead.

    Walk on!
    Love
    Lynn
    PS the last time I hiked was recently in Castlewood on an unseasonably warm day. The last time I REALLY HIKED was in Iona Scotland, a year ago this Month on 17 March. I would love to return. I understand your love for Scotland. And may I recommend Vasque ultra-dry hikers? You won’t have to worry about wet feet ever again. 🙂

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