Am I not among the… long-distance walkers?  -Mary Oliver

Well, I used to be.  Used to be, before I moved to Texas and lived in Victoria, British Columbia, I went out walking.  For the last three of the seven years that I lived there I was blessed to live very close to wonderfully lush and long trails, on which I would go out walking most days, often for an hour or more at a time. Exercise was never a propelling force–always, I wanted to go see.  Go see the Canada geese and swans on the pond, go see if the trillium, the daffodils, the Indian plum were, thrillingly, blooming. I wanted to bring a book of poems and go sit on a rock I knew over which a branch hung low, where chickadees would be singing. Wanted to see if the floodwaters had receded from the low-lying hayfield. Exercise was part of the bargain, of course, but what set me out the door and down the path was the desire to exercise my soul and my mind: there would be beauty abounding, and writing would come.  Often I’d return home clutching a handful of lines to my heart, and a poem, or a short scrap of prose, would be set to paper upon my return.  I was a long-distance walker, an almost-daily walker, and I loved it.  It was such a dear, intricate part of who I was.

Then I moved to Texas. Land of the scorching sun.  Two years have gone by and I have been on maybe a walk  for every month since the move.  For most of the year, it is simply too dreadfully hot for the unacclimatized to venture outdoors with a purpose that involves moving. Plus, around these parts, there isn’t much to see.  Folks who live in my neck of the woods aren’t fancy: they fill an empty plastic pail of cat litter with cement to hold up their mailbox and stick it out beside the road without ceremony. There are immensely more beer cans on the sides of the road than there are flowering things. (There are no flowering things.) There are no trails nearby, certainly no ponds or swans. So, I have stayed indoors.

But I miss my old walking ways.  Bemoan their loss, actually.  I would say that I have wasted away these last two years wishing things weren’t so. Obstinately not walking for lack of pretty things to look at or clement weather. But are these what make a good walk?

Perhaps I should look at walking in the same way that I look at asana.  In the yoga tradition that informs and inspires me, Viniyoga, asanas are chosen and used for their function, not their form. Which means that the primary concern is, What benefits might this posture bring to the practitioner?, not, Can the practitioner perform this pose with perfect alignement? In fact, we mess with the classical forms of postures all day long in order to get the benefits we are after. This principle, which completely freaked me out when I first encountered it (I started practicing yoga in an Iyengar studio, where Form is a sacred cow) is of deep and vital importance to my understanding and practice of yoga asanas. How might I apply it to walking?

The benefits I get from walking are innumerable.  I believe it to be the most perfect form of exercise.  And, love yoga as much as I do, it does not provide me with sufficient exercise, so I need to walk. I enjoy feeling how strong and capable my body is, and revel in the afterglow of a good brisk walk. I love listening to peppy tunes on my iPod as I stroll along.  Getting back to walking is definitely of big part of my intentions for my Immigration Vacation. And… writing might still come.  As a matter of fact, I typed up this whole entry fresh from a walk, cheeks red, heart racing. It’s a beautiful spring day in Central Texas, sunny and a balmy 80 degrees. It takes me a half hour to walk down to the end of our country road and back. I’ll make myself a rousing playlist to bounce along to, and might just be strappin’ on my walking shoes and heading out the door to walk it more often.  Who cares if I have to sacrifice the sacred cow of pretty, flowering things along the way? The benefits are way worth it.

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