Archives for posts with tag: walking and thinking

A couple hours from now I’ll be on the road, heading to the coast (again). Short trip. Small break. A bit of downtime. It’s so nice to have that luxury, at this time in my life. I find myself wondering why I did nothing like this for myself for so long, when I needed it so badly? I failed myself pretty horribly in the self-care department for many many years. I’m here, now, though, itinerary planned, room booked (I couldn’t find a reservable campsite anywhere within the same distance – I tried!), bag packed… I’m ready. It’s only left to finish this bit of the workday, load my modest weekend bag into the Mazda, and fill the gas tank on my way, and I’ll be seaside with my thoughts for a couple days.

…Last time I went, I spent most of my time walking on the beach, listening to the sounds of wind and waves, just thinking and meditating. Pretty “uneventful” by most definitions – and that’s okay with me. I need this time to recharge, to recenter, and to gain perspective on “all the things”. I feel fortunate to have a partnership with someone who “gets it”. 🙂 Who gets me.

…Shit. I already miss my Traveling Partner, and I haven’t even left yet. LOL

I’ve got my laptop packed. I might write. I might not. No pressure… just quiet and time. 🙂

What are you doing to take care of that person in the mirror? Seriously. You can begin again. You can try something new. You can set new expectations and new boundaries. You can claim what you need for yourself from your own limited lifetime. There are verbs involved, and the work will fall to you, if it is to get done at all. You can do this!

…But will you?

It’s funny how a long-held dream or goal sometimes unfolds very differently than I imagined it might. House in the country? Check. Well… I mean… it’s well away from the city, and there is a large-ish farm across the road… The house itself? It’s in a small suburban neighborhood at the edge of a small town. lol It’s not exactly “rural” in m most respects, and quite convenient – even rather “walkable” (although the country lane that runs between our neighborhood and the farm on the other side is perhaps less than ideal for walking; it’s a busy road, and narrow in spots).

I’m not complaining. I love this little house. I love the view from the deck. The house manages to be both larger than I thought I could afford, and much smaller than I thought I might want. lol There’s a lot of that sort of thing cropping up as dreams become realities. It’s a bit like a chapter in Alice in Wonderland. How lovely, though, that generally the translations of my dreams into reality have been so much more likely to be a pleasant surprise instead of a disappointment, these days. (I’ll note that I don’t think this reflects a change in “the way things turn out” as much as it reflects a change in my perspective on things and ways, generally.)

That gets me thinking about books I got over the Giftmas holiday that I haven’t yet finished, and other books I’d also like to read. I think about a favorite bookstore, and wonder when the pandemic will really end? I do miss a bit of proper shopping. 🙂 Today will be a good day to read, too.

Similarly, my anticipated “regular local mile” – which I figured would likely be right here in my own neighborhood (and that has been a frequent walk) – turns out to be nearby, but still about a 10-minute drive or so… and about 5 miles away. It’s a lovely forested walk. There is a 1-mile loop, and a 1/2-mile loop. It’s the sort of lush bit of forest that I love, and the trail carries me up and down the hills, and over a creek a couple times, and around and through the forest until it returns to the trailhead. It’s quite lovely. I’ll probably go there often. I went yesterday. I’m planning to go today – I may do both loops (I like it that much).

Yesterday the approach to the trailhead was quite foggy when I got started.

It’s a good season for walking and reflecting, at least here in the Pacific Northwest, in this area where winter’s are generally relatively mild. (Maybe snow or ice later in January, or in February?) I enjoy the walking for more than fitness; I find that it “clears my head” and gives me literal “breathing room” for sorting things out and “gazing inward” while I enjoy the scenery along the trail. Taking pictures helps keep me grounded and anchored to “now”, as I walk. (I don’t do well stuck in my head.)

It was a beautiful misty morning for a walk.

I remind myself to run an errand on the way back from my walk this morning. I mean… for sure, that’s convenient, why not? I hope I still remember when the time comes… lol

The Vine Maples and Big Leaf Maples extend their bare branches, but without their leaves, I can see almost all the way across the park from a high vantage point on one side.

The muddy trails don’t fret me. They are still passable and fairly safe, and I always bring my cane for trail walking or hiking. I love the tangles of branches, the morning mist, and the puddles reflecting the sky.

Lovely little city park. It’s enough. 🙂 More than enough.

I sip my coffee and look over yesterday’s pictures. They distract me from the pain in my neck, which is quite a feat. I smile and sip my coffee, feeling wholly content and satisfied with this moment, right here. I think of my Traveling Partner, hearing him move about in the other room. I’ll invite him to go walking with me. He’ll look out at the chilly gray rather rainy looking day, and smile and say “No, thank you.”

My partner appears in the doorway as if I’d called to him, just as I begin to turn my chair to go ask if he’d like to go walking with me. He looks apologetic, kind, and very serious. “You may want to just avoid me today,” he says in that loving apologetic tone I know so well, “I just hurt that much, and I don’t want to treat you badly or take it out on you at all.” I nod. I let him know I understand and that I’m okay with that; I hurt too. It’s not an ideal combination of humans-in-pain, sometimes. We take our best care of each other, some days, by alerting the other we’re not fit companionship, at all, and making room to love each other with a little space between us. It’s a much better practice than some I’ve seen, and it works for us. No hurt feelings. Clear expectations.

So…a quiet Sunday, a walk, some housekeeping, laundry, and I’ll probably bake cookies and bars for the week, too. Before any of that? I’ll have to begin again. 😀

I took a long walk today, something short of ‘hiking’, but much more than a walk around the block, or to the store. I spent a mellow hour or so among the trees in a nearby nature park, a favorite place that was once part of my daily commute, on foot, to and from work each day. That seems an eternity ago, but in any case, it’s neither here nor there – it’s in the past. I walked paths I hadn’t walked before, and happily observed a couple new ones – or perhaps placed such that I simply hadn’t gotten to them, previously; they were new to me, and that was enough to count them as new, on my walk today. Camera in hand, questions in mind, and some mostly unmeasured time to walk, meditate, and be present, aware.

I feel more prepared for 2015, and in the quiet moments between hanging out with family, and finding my way to sleep, I am enjoying taking a look at the day’s pictures, as well as the experience, emotions, and thoughts they represent for me now. I hope the New Year finds you well, hopeful, encouraged, and ready to continue your journey, wherever it may lead you. Thank you for reading – it never stops being meaningful that there are people on the other end of this handful of words. You matter to me.

My New Year’s celebration, my thoughts along my walk today, are rather more personal than the sort of things I generally share so easily. Rather than feel naked and uneasy sharing things I don’t comfortably express, lack words for, find ‘too private’, or may actually just not be meaningful for anyone but me, I’ll share some of today’s pictures, and some observations. It’s enough. 🙂

...Come on, now; this is why we can't have nice things. :-\

…Come on, now; this is why we can’t have nice things. :-\

As I entered the park, I felt sad, disappointed, and angry that people don’t have enough ‘pride of place’ to want to care for the world we all share. I’m not sure I know what to do about it, beyond choosing, myself, not to litter, leave shopping carts misplaced far from stores, drop soda cans along sidewalks, or dump major appliances down hillsides. I guess it’s a start.

A fusion of nature and craftsmanship.

A fusion of nature and craftsmanship.

I entered the park and noticed some vaguely bowl-shaped stones here and there, and considered what a lovely bird bath something like that would be in my garden. I find the functional stone, and the carved detail added later beautiful, and seeming very sturdy; something that could be counted on. I walk on, reflecting on my desire to feel secure in my life, and in my relationships.

Every moment has something to teach me; there's no knowing what may be around the next bend.

Every moment has something to teach me; there’s no knowing what may be around the next bend.

I inhaled the chill winter air as I walked new paths. Again and again, I was struck by the quality of the winter afternoon sunlight. Again and again, I was frustrated in my attempts to capture it. I stopped looking for perfection, and began accepting what the camera revealed to me.

Winter forest, winter sky - I see mostly what I expect to see, when I expect to see something particular.

Winter forest, winter sky – I see mostly what I expect to see, when I expect to see something particular.

I walked through areas of the park I used to avoid for ‘safety reasons’. Not that the park is unsafe in any noteworthy way; I fell and hurt myself pretty badly there, once, tripping over an exposed tree root that I didn’t see – I wasn’t looking. That was a day I felt incredibly happy, and I was looking up, and around, and enjoying birdsong, and singing holiday carols to myself as I walked along – I definitely wasn’t looking at the ground. While that’s lovely, lacking sufficient mindfulness to successfully walk to work without hurting myself is probably not something to brag about. I walked paths, today, that were rife with twisted knots and braids of tree roots without any particular concern – or lack of awareness. I was aware of the tree roots, among the many details I observed along the way, and enjoyed them as an opportunity to refine the mindfulness practices that add so much to my experience now; I’m always practicing, that’s how these practices work. 🙂 It felt like a huge triumph to feel so comfortable, confident, and unconcerned about an obstacle that once weighed so heavily on my experience that I gave it the power to change my path.

Winter has her lessons, too.

Winter has her lessons, too.

I enjoyed my winter walk so very much, today. I was well-prepared, and although I was walking new paths, I felt I was in familiar territory. I felt safe. I felt fearless. I felt comfortable. Funny how much being prepared can change an experience. Something as small as dressing for the winter weather can have so much value. It’s worth taking the time to prepare, even for something as simple as a winter walk. How often have I rushed out the door to do something, or go somewhere, and found myself inconvenienced because I overlooked something I needed, or suffered pointlessly for some other issue that consideration (“What can I do to prepare for this?”) could have prepared me for? How many times have I succeeded beyond my expectations or desires, on occasions that I happened to be more prepared for an event, decision, or activity?

Looking up; a common practice I use to shift perspective, and a lovely metaphor.

Looking up; a common practice I use to shift perspective, and a lovely metaphor.

There’s more to staring into the sky than meets the eye. I find the literal change in perspective does tend to fairly easily allow me to change my perspective, whatever the circumstances. Perspective has proven to be a very big deal in finding emotional resilience, contentment, and emotional self-sufficiency. I had trouble learning the lessons of compassion until I learned some of the lessons perspective has to offer. I find that perspective and compassion generally go hand in hand.

Sometimes illumination seems so near... other time, it seems a distant possibility, seen just beyond some challenge.

Sometimes illumination seems so near… other time, it seems a distant possibility, seen just beyond some challenge.

So… I walk on. Sometimes the perception that illumination is just out of reach is an illusion, a ‘trick of light’ – a matter of perspective. It may not be at all what it appears to be, in some brief moment of struggle, or frustration.

Winter reflections.

Winter reflections.

That’s really what my walk was about, for me, reflections – my own, on the year just past, and considering what to take along for the journey ahead… Who am I, today, that I wasn’t last year? Who do I hope to be on this day, next year? How do I get there, from here? In the simplest terms, it’s just a walk on a winter day, some photographs, some moments, some thoughts… I didn’t need more than that. Today is a good day to start a new year…a year of love, of consideration, of practice. Today is a good day to start a new year on a less familiar path.

How often have I suffered, or hurt, and faced someone telling me to ‘grow a thicker skin’, ‘shrug it off’, ‘walk away’, ‘move on’, ‘let it go’… How often have you? It’s funny that comes up so often, I think, because it is only in very rare circumstances that such words have had any value, or benefit, in those moments of pain.  I’m not complaining, and I’m not angry.  I’m a bit puzzled, though; where did we – any of us – get the idea that the proper and effective way to soothe, support, or console another suffering human being is to tell them to stop suffering? It’s not particularly effective, and definitely sends a clear message to the suffering person that they are somehow in the wrong to hurt.

I wrote about a thousand more bitter words in that vein this morning, before I realized I had ‘gone off topic’… because this morning I am considering with some interest and amusement that I am actually at a place in life where I am indeed, in some small way, ‘walking it off’, and have been since my journey dog-legged through a crisis and veered hard in the direction of mindfulness, and self-compassion.  I’m not trying to ‘walk it off’ in a dismissive way, devaluing the nature of my experience, or to avoid meeting my needs, or to avoid facing the things that hurt so much…I’m not running away.  I am walking. A lot. I walk every day, and even days when my walking is simply the portions of my commute I handle on foot, I get a few miles of gentle contemplation, and forward momentum.  How is it that it matters so much? (The walking – and the walking with mindfulness, particularly?)

One journey or another; getting from here to there.

One journey or another; getting from here to there.

There’s probably science to it; I haven’t studied it.  I do know that on my most challenging days, when my brain fights any moment of stillness, of awareness, of self-compassion, or contentment, no matter how vicious the ‘brain attacks’ I inflict on myself; once I’m on my feet, and walking, the breathing takes over, and I begin to find peace. Sure, I may indulge in some negative thinking, frustrated rumination, or angry ideations in those first hundreds of yards, but once miles start ticking away, my head clears, my heart feels lighter and my mind is liberated, my thinking productive and lucid. Generally.

This morning I am looking back on the evolution of getting back on my feet. I am observing the steps I took – real and metaphorical – that got my weight down, got me off psych meds that were doing more harm than good,  got me away from the mesmerizing mental junk food offered by the media, the networks, and the cable companies. Got me away from a job that was killing my soul. I took steps – and a lot of them, most of them, were real steps – feet on pavement, feet on earth.

I felt real pride the first time I walked 10 blocks to the nearest grocery store – most of it uphill – after years of being sedentary and sedated.  I felt a sense of accomplishment when I was able to visit the big farmer’s market on Saturdays; for so long I had been so uncomfortably heavy I just couldn’t walk far enough to do it.  I kept at it. No car. Everywhere I could reasonably go on foot, I planned the additional time and didn’t take transportation.  I stopped asking friends for rides places. The weight kept coming off.  The milestones, and achievements of small goals, kept adding up, and the benefits have never stopped being rewarding. Beginning to commute on foot was a really big deal – and choosing to relocate to housing that put that within reach was one of the best things I have ever done to ‘take care of me’.  I’ve been ‘walking off’ the weight for a while now. It’s steady, effective, and gradual.  It requires commitment, consistency, and a hearty application of verbs, and it does work.  It only makes sense that eventually that process would take me further… parks… trails… getaways… sanity… wellness.

One step after another.

One step after another.

I had forgotten how much walking can also free my mind. A camera, some landscape, a journey… and the world becomes a wide open space, a distant horizon, a broad vista, and it’s different when it is more than a trip to the store.  The hiking I have been doing meets a lot of varied needs for me, and practicing mindfulness matters. Storming off angrily and furiously walking an aggressively paced lap or two through residential neighborhoods and retails spaces doesn’t have the same power to bring peace and healing as mindfully walking quiet remote trails, content and aware, and I’m glad I rediscovered that.

Wide-eyed and mindful, there is value in every journey.

Wide-eyed and mindful, there is value in every journey.

I’m spending this year, 51, walking Oregon trails. I’m making an effort to ‘walk away’ from my chaos and damage, and taking a gentler pace through my experience. I’m learning to treat myself kindly walking challenging trails; taking a walking staff or trekking poles, instead of risking injury by ignoring injuries I’ve already got, planning, being prepared, being aware.  I’m shrugging off drama, and ‘moving on’ from my trauma… by moving on; setting goals, trying new trails, exploring the unknown in real places as well as within.  I’m taking progress, growth, and  healing ‘a step at a time’ – literally.

Every path leads precisely where it takes me.

Every path leads precisely where it takes me.

I’m not sure when I really started down this path, as a thing all its own… was it the 5k last fall, on that dreadful rainy, stormy day?  That was certainly an achievement, and it encouraged me to walk farther, more, and more often.  It was a good next step from commuting on foot.  Trips to the beach and my partner’s recent camping/rafting trip definitely got me excited to take yet another step… and unexpectedly it has become a weekend practice to grab my gear and head for the trees, somewhere, for a few hours, quietly walking. Since that first hike with my partners – Cooper Mountain – I’ve also hiked Tualatin Hills Nature Park (through which was my original commute on foot, and a very emotionally safe feeling solo hike), and some of the trails of the Audubon Society Park. I’ve got Sunday hikes planned ahead for most of the summer, and two solo camping trips over weekends.  Friends and family already recognize my enthusiasm and commitment to this new activity; they recommend places they have been and enjoyed, and places they think I would enjoy, myself. It’s a point of connection between many coworkers, and I. I feel engaged, and involved in my life, and enthusiastic about each new adventure.

Life's curriculum isn't always about 'the hard stuff'.

Life’s curriculum isn’t always about ‘the hard stuff’.

Meditation. Walking. Healing. It sounds too easy, and if someone would have suggested it decades ago, I don’t know that I would have been sufficiently open to take it seriously, or to give it a fair try.  Still… I’m taking steps.  I’m moving on.  I’m… walking it off.

One possible future... and one beautiful now.

One possible future… and one beautiful now.

Today is a good day to plan tomorrow’s hike, and to smile and remember other hikes, and other good days.  Today is a good day to embrace what has value. Today is a good day to take another step. Today is a good day to change the world.