Friday, October 20, 2006

The Pleasures of Walking

One of the great things about life is how a series of seemingly randomly occurring events can, when coming into conjunction, open your eyes to new possibilties and new revelations.

Since returning from France nearly a month ago, the lower mainland of British Columbia has in large part basked in a glorious stretch of sun-filled Indian Summer days. We have been treated to long periods of sunshine, an occasional intermittment rain storm, and then more blue skies and warm rays. No matter what the state of affairs your life is in, no matter how dismal the dating scene or the job market, well, a sunny day in October will just make you smile and put a little lift in your stride.

For me, the combination of sunny days, a car with no transmission and a series of nagging old injuries, reawakened the unexpected pleasures to be gleaned from the simple act of walking. Not strolling per se, or walking the dogs, or running for the bus, but the act of setting out several miles across town at a brisk pace knowing full well that it will take you anywhere from thirty to ninety minutes to get to where you you are headed. For a full week I had no vehicle and the knowledge that there was not a rain cloud in sight to justify my spending an absurd amount of money for a cab and knowing that by the time a bus finally wandered along that if I had simply set out on my journey I would already have arrived.

So I walked.

And I loved it.

I walked at a pace somewhere between three and four miles an hour. My heart rate was elevated and I had to dress in layers because no matter how brisk the weather was when I started within ten minutes I was breaking a sweat. It was the kind of pace that fieldhands must have once used to get around the countryside. Some days I easily must have walked seven or eight miles and that doesn't even account for the hour or so per day I walk my dogs. During the course of the week I also squeezed in a few very easy runs, but I was happier running. Much happier. The walking was easier on my aching neck and back, my often injured shoulders, all the old injuries that have been aggravated by sleeping in too many strange, soft European mattresses the past few months, followed by a stint of working around the clock when I returned home to get caught up on some behind schedule painting jobs.

The walking opened my eyes to my neighbourhood, so that I saw it in a completely new way. Little gardens I had never noticed before, new stores and restaurants, new homes, the changing colours of the leaves and the dying off of the flowers. Gardens in the last stages of harvest, squashes, pumpkins and gourds all that remained to be picked. I met many people walking their beloved dogs, on their way to school or work. I realized that walkers are comprised mostly of students, young working women, pet owners and the elderly.

And walkers are friendly people. Within days, as I walked to and fro from a job site, I was recognizing people, regulars so to speak. Invariably they began to nod and smile when they recognized me, which was not too difficult in my paint splattered clothes. And you could see that those who walked as I did, with an air of purpose to their stride, with an intent to cover the space between two points on a map, were remarkably trim and fit. There were any number whom I had trouble overtaking. Some overtook me. They were picking up their feet and putting them down. These folks were covering miles.

And as my eyes opened so too did my imagination. If I was going to be walking for an hour, I found myself mulling over problems, roiling them over, twisting them this way and that until they unraveled. I find myself humming often, and singing snatches of song lyrics. My mood was undoubtedly enhanced by all the oxygen I was sucking up. I was simply happier. Engaged as I was in the world outside my apartment and outside the rooms I was painting.

Creatively, I was feeling burned out. But in walking I found myself unconsciously composing little bits of dialogue, thinking of new ideas, getting inspired to write things I hadn't even been considering.

During my week spent walking I found myself revelling in the simple sensual pleasure that comes from using your physical self in the way it was designed over several million years and meant to be used. I have found a similar feeling running, especially on the long slow distance Sunday runs, but there was something different and unique in the pleasures I gleaned from walking.

In the span of seven days I lost three or four pounds, weight that has stayed off. When walking I seem inclined to eat less and have less appetite. Meals seem to taste better. Maybe my taste buds are better oxygenated! And even though I have my car back, I am still inclined to walk. Better yet, I am inclined to make the time to walk.

In fact, I think I'll go for a walk...


Blogger Scooter said...

Walking is magical!

2:48:00 PM  
Blogger Joe said...

The weather we've been having really is wonderful isn't it? The only problem is the grass is still growing; I don't remember ever having to mow the lawn this late in the year. Sigh...

I totally share your sentiments about walking. And who says walking can't be a decent workout?

9:56:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hear you. I run (training for NYC marathon, two weeks away) and I walk (about 4km each way to work every day). They are two very different experiences and I love them both. Walk on...

6:00:00 PM  

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