The daily walk as meditation, adventure, exercise, freedom, existential ramble, break from daily tedium, time with friends and for contemplation: I’ve experienced and written about walking in all these veins over the past year. I’ve walked in Montreal, Vienna, Budapest, Prague, Newark, Ocean Grove, Long Beach Island, a couple of Costos (ha!) and lots of place in between. This weekend I walked in Virginia, Tennessee, and Kentucky in the footsteps of Daniel Boone and beside the great Captain Joseph Martin circa 1775 who staved off the Cherokees and helped us win the Revolutionary War — the photos you see here are from my last walk in Coony Hollow (pronounced HOLLER), when I came to the bridge across Powell’s Creek and I crossed it…only to find there was no outlet on the other side.
The entire idea of the MyBigWalk (one woman, one year, and lots and lots of miles beyond 1000), I understand now, was to ensure that I was living an active life. I needed an attainable goal and I set one. That way when life gave me other setbacks I was able to draw on that one hour a day and know that I had a daily goal I could and did meet without much difficulty.
It’s not stretching the truth much to say that I needed a purpose for my days besides writing and chasing editors and dreams and plots and characters and deadlines and so I gave myself one that didn’t require that I visit my therapist, go to the gym, travel to Europe, confront my demons, go a little crazy, heal my past, or put myself in harm’s way.
Funny enough, I did all those things…and then some. I questioned authority and convention and limitations and a lot of the rules we live by. Even when the questions were too difficult to answer or the impasse was insurmountable, at least I walked the walk. Literally. I put on my sneakers and hit the trail. I’ve laughed and I’ve cried a bunch, too, but mostly I’ve gone out with an open heart and an open mind, and I’ve been rewarded.I didn’t hide from my fears or from the things I wanted to see and do and taste and feel. Sometimes I was ambushed, sometimes I was lost, sometimes I hobbled on blisters through the snow and rain, and I endured the mockery of sunny days when I felt unhappy and confused.
Much has been written about the importance of putting one foot in front of the other and walking the path you’ve set for yourself or taking that bend in the road you know you need to follow to become the full, honest, and whole person you want to be and can be.
Of course that path is sometimes difficult, dark, or scary. But if you turn back, you’ll never know if you could have made it. If you give up, you’re back where you started.
That’s not for me: not literally and not metaphorically either. I’ve always believed that if I didn’t try, if I didn’t peer around that corner, if I didn’t take on tasks and personal challenges that are daunting, that I’d have regrets. Trying and failing is the only way I want to live. It’s not trying that leads to weakness and sorrow and the feeling that “it could have been,” “it might have been…if only I’d tried.”
I can honestly say that not one single thing that came into my life this year went unexamined or without following the path until it could not be travelled any further — and that almost always, what stood in my way was not my own will (or lack of will) or my own fear. I refuse to be deterred because I’m afraid. I refuse to step down because I have a lack of will. That’s not for me.
So my latest manuscript is still unpublished and my latest novel, The Miracles of Prato (co-written with my dear friend Laura Morowitz), didn’t make any bestseller lists. But my accomplishments, my dreams, my integrity, and my peace of mind are all intact. I have my imagination, I have my determination, I have grace, generosity, and gratitude. And I have 1000 miles of walking carved into the heels of my shoes. I have friends and family and strangers near and far who kept me company and encouraged me along the way.
For everyone who ever called me up and said, “Hey, did you walk today?” I have a great big shout out: THANK YOU!
MyBigWalk is over (for now). But endings are new beginnings. And so I leave you with some words from Goethe (or attributed to him) that I have lived by for years. The first carried me through my twenties into my forties:
Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.
And the last is painted on my office wall where I can read it, and strive to live by it, each day now that I’m in my (gasp) fifties.
The wisdom is in the semi-colon. Not one; not the other. Feel the fear; do it anyway. Do not hurry; do not rest. Keep on truckin’ (no semi-colon) baby. And while you’re on the road, drop me a line now and then to tell me where you’ve been, where you’re going, and how you’re doing. I’ll be walking my own private path, but I’ll be cheering you on.