Sunday, July 24, 2005

When I walk with nature, I never walk alone.

After such an exhausting first half of the year in school, I found myself wanting to get the most out of summer. I spent so many days cooped up inside from January to June, completely slaving over the computer until wee hours of the morning. I’ve lost track of how many nights I went without sleep as I wrote several papers on architecture, planning, and art history. My camera started to collect dust and the blog entries became few and far between (I apologize profusely to the faithful that checked in every once in awhile during that time and I thank you for hanging in there). My laborious efforts paid off as I completed two full semesters with good grades. But something was not balanced in my life. I gained back a few pounds that I’d lost last year, and I’d also forgotten how to enjoy a quiet moments during my day (that did not include television, the radio or the internet in some way). Knitting helped me a great deal as the craft demands a certain quiet patience. But I still needed something else.

I took to walking in early May, mainly to jumpstart the weight loss. First, I walked a little in the evening after supper and a few times in the early morning before dawn. I walked around the neighborhood, remembering how it was last summer, when I feverishly walked for hours at a time, even wearing out my tennis shoes at one point. Pretty early on, I noticed all the little things about walking outdoors that I’d missed out on earlier this year. I love the stillness of the morning, before most humans are awake. Birds stir as early at 4 am, animals scurry for food, and the air is crisp and full of possibilities. Every single morning, a whole other world is working outside beyond our Pop-tart breakfasts, beauty routines and the morning news. I began to observe the world around me once again with my photographic eye. Water on rose petals, rays of sunlight pouring over the landscape, butterflies pausing on leaves with wings that slowly open and close as if they were rhythmical breathing- everything was as I remembered and yet entirely new at the same time. Naturally, my camera became my constant companion once again (and you all get to see what I’ve been seeing lately).

This summer, especially in the last six weeks, I’ve made it a priority to get out for a walk almost every day. I started walking from school to work which I estimate to be at 3 or so miles. Then, I realized that I had allocated too much time for my morning commutes and I bumped up my walks to more than 4 miles. Every week, I’ve been adding more steps. This past Friday, I walked 11 miles for the day. I fear I may have calves of steel come September and who thinks rock-hard calves are sexy on a woman? But I guess it’s a small price to pay to start my day in such a peaceful way. There is a lot of head clearing that goes on during such a long walk. I think it’s a form of meditation. I’ve never been the praying type. But something amazing happens when I’m out there on the track, walking past the blackberry plants, listening to the Willamette gurgle past river boulders, and occasionally greeting other walkers and joggers. I can get in touch with myself and the environment.

Recently, a friend asked me if I use a walkman when I exercise. Unequivocally and quite happily I said no. Why drown out the world around me with some mindless pop songs? I do that in the car all the time (and I do enjoy it a great deal in that setting…. I’m the dork who sings along totally off-key with the radio… the kind that you laugh at when you’re both stopped at a red light). There is too much to miss on a walk with a walkman strapped on. Earlier this year, I found an ipod in a gutter in downtown Eugene. I quickly traded it for a low quality digital camera. Why do such a foolish thing? An ipod lets me take music that someone has created and shared with me, everywhere I go. But a camera lets me create art everywhere I go and share it here. For me, there’s no contest. I can pick flowers and take them home without killing them. I can share the beauty I see everywhere. I can capture moments that would otherwise be lost.

For an interesting article about walking, check out the July 14th Eugene Weekly cover story. The UofO English professor that wrote it is definitely on to something. I recommend trying to walk once a week around your environment. I guarantee that you’ll notice things that you’ve never noticed before. Don’t be surprised if you notice something new within yourself as well.


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