Inspiration


Day 347

I walked into my local town hall in a press capacity for the first time in ten years today.

Ten years ago — the year I turned 40 — I was a reporter for our local newspaper and spent many afternoon and evening hours in that very building covering government matters and town meetings. I started out nervous that year and grew into  the job  with the help of seasoned reporters and editors who gave their patience, their guidance, and sometimes their frustration to me.

I thought fondly of our younger selves  this morning as I parked my car and walked through the parking lot toward the double glass doors.   It’s not often that we get to retrace our own steps and remember how much has happened in our lives and in ourselves since we last walked the same path. And here’s what I was thinking  — it’s not really  the same path as it was ten years ago. It looks the same, but it’s been trod by many people, with many hopes and dreams and fears. And it’s not the same walk, because I’m not the same person. We’re never the same people we were when we last crossed even the most familiar threshold. Every day, every year, experience changes us: some things make us stronger, others weaker; some richer, others poorer. But everything pours into the same place — the richness that make up the fabric of our lives and of our selves.

Are we always the same, or are we never the same? I say both. This morning and yesterday morning, last year and this year, a decade ago, and myself at 50: I had the same name, the same heart, the same soul.  But they’ve been repaved, worn down, built up, broken, cared for, made fun of, and loved.

That’s an awful lot to think about when you’re on your way to take a photograph of school crossing guards being sworn in. But that’s the kind of thing I think about — so that you guys can peek in here from time to time and think to yourselves either — “Man, she’s nuts,” or “Thank god somebody else can articulate how I feel living in the gray area I call my own life.”

Probably, hopefully, you think and you feel both ways. As I do.

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Day 227

Remember when you were a kid and you ran through your neighborhood or lay in your backyard watching the clouds float by, and you were completely at ease? Everything was familiar and comfortable, you felt safe, and you felt…free. Didn’t you?

My Big Walker, Nanci — you may remember she is a “professional listener” — was out walking her dog last week when she felt nostalgic for that feeling of being truly home and present in her neighborhood, as she’d felt when she was a child.

“I’m always in my head,” Nanci said. “But on that walk I made a conscious effort to slow down, to look around, and to really take notice of my experience and my surroundings. I decided to be in the moment.”

The daily walk is a wonderful and accessible — dare I say simple? — chance to think about centering yourself in the moment and taking in your surroundings. It can sound a little new age-y but really it’s something we did naturally when we were kids, long before we’d ever heard of the idea of being Zen or chuckled at the admonishment, Don’t just do something, stand there!

Personally I am not one who likes to just “stand there.” But I try to be open to the many moments of each day, and the daily walk, like any daily practice, is precisely the time when I remind myself to slow down mentally, to be here now, and to recognize that my ‘home’ is something I can always carry inside me, so that I can feel at home wherever I may be.

Day 217

Mystics, saints, pilgrims, writers, and philosophers have walked through the ages. Saint Francis walked through Italy for years. Thoreau said he had to walk for hours each day to soothe himself and open his mind.

Since I began in October, My Big Walk has brought me a surprising amount of community, optimism, and happiness. How?

By helping me see what’s most important in life, and bringing me into regular contact with other people who are adventurous, spirited, and proactive.

650 miles into my year-long walk, here are few of the most important things that I’ve learned:

1. My mother-in-law is right…exercising every day is the secret to a happy life.

2. An adventurous spirit keeps you young-at-heart.

3. Never say ‘no’ because you’re afraid of looking foolish.

4.. Kindness may go unrewarded, but you only hurt yourself by becoming bitter.

5. Gratitude, generosity, and grace go hand-in-hand.

Day 210

My dog Sarah is looking at me with big droopy eyes. She is begging me to take her for a walk. Which I’m going to do. Very soon.

Meanwhile, Real Simple is a woman’s magazine that reads like a catalog — with lots of pleasant pictures, simple lists, and stuff to buy or ideas for redoing some physical or spiritual part of your life. MyBigWalker Elaine sent me this, from the Real Simple  “Daily Thoughts” feature.

image by Kate Powers, courtesy of Real Simple

“Walking gets the feet moving,

the blood moving,

the mind moving.

And movement is life.”

Carrie Latet


I’m sure we can find something in this tiny little inspiration message to use today. And for those who are wondering (I know I was), Carrie Letat is…somebody who writes inspirational quotes, but has no other presense on the internet: nary a wikipedia entry, a facebook page, a photo, a homepage — you get the idea.

Which just goes to show you that inspiration is where you find it.  And in the digital age, you can find it everywhere.  But is it real? I guess that’s up to you to decide.

Day 203

Here’s something fun! Shirley in Michigan is doing a virtual walk across America, with help and inspiration from a free government website. Shirley writes…

I’m doing a virtual walk across America.using the website exercise.lbl.gov. It’s a free and easy way to stay inspired to walk. The site shows a map starting in Virginia and ending in Eugene, Oregon. After each walk I enter the milage and it keeps track of weekly and monthly distance and even emails me if I miss a couple of days in a row. There are logs for walking, running and biking.

Every time I enter my milage a picture comes up of where I would be if really walking there. I make that  my background on the computer as a reminder to change it every day. If the same picture is showing in 24 hours, I  get up and walk even if it’s doing figure eights through the rooms of my house. Once it showed a little dog in the road so I had to go an extra mile so he wouldn’t get hit by a car. The best thing about the site is how it’s stimulating my imagination.

I  passed the 500 miles goal last week and I’m now getting ready to enter Kentucky. I’ve been saying that for a couple of weeks now and  can’t seem to get there no matter how many miles I log. I believe the mapmakers are moving boundries just because they’re bored with the old ones. It  would be a lot easier to rack up miles if I’d stop putting my pedometers through the wash cycle. I average one every 2 months. I’m waiting for my 3rd to be delivered tomorrow — I hope!

If you’re looking for some new  Monday morning inspiration, I think this is a fun place to start! Shirley just bought a camera and promises to send us a photo, and an update on her walk, next week.

Day 194

From Middlebury, to Massachusetts, to Nicaragua…yes, I did say Nicaragua.

While I was in New England  I met up with a couple of Frank’s Middlebury College buddies and old lacrosse teammates who are taking the concept of grace and generosity in an unusual direction…and all the way to Managua, Nicaragua.

Their passion is lacrosse, and they’ve found a way to make what’s fun for them part of a mission of goodwill, generosity, and grace by bringing supplies, sports equipment, coaches, ambassadors, and money to the thousands of children who live on the garbage dumps in Nicaragua.

Yes, these children and their families make their homes in a slum on top of a garbage dump. They eat what they find there, build their homes from what they find there, and wear the clothes the salvage from the trash of a poor nation.

The Middlebury initiative is called Lacrosse the Nations — this is an international humanitarian organization that utilizes sport and play to foster education and the development of critical life skills for children living in impoverished communities worldwide.

Lacrosse the Nationsvision is to utilize the game of lacrosse and recreational activities as a platform to provide education, mentorship, hope, and opportunity to children living in impoverished communities worldwide.

They are “ambassadors of hope” in Nicaragua, using lacrosse as a means to engage, serve and uphold those in need.

THIS is generosity in action, folks. I hope we can all find a cause we believe in, support it, and build something for the future that’s bigger than ourselves.

Day 190

“Where are we?”

We didn't have a camera...but this is what a labyrinth looks like!

Halfway through the middle of my life, I found myself in a well-tended wood on the road from Lenox to Stockbridge. The path was covered with clean woodchips and soft sunlight.  We turned uphill and walked against the downhill current of a babbling brook. Crossing the footbridge at the top of the path, Frank and I  found ourselves in a quiet, crowded parking lot beside an institutional brick building that might once have been a school or even a convent.  The building faced a long emerald lawn overlooking the rolling Berkshires and a wide, blue lake.

“Where are we?” I asked a woman whom we spotted climbing the front steps of the unmarked building.

She looked at me strangely for a moment, and then answered, “You’re at Kripalu. You look like you belong here.”

Isn’t it amazing? My daily walk — grabbed at the end of a long day of driving from Middlebury, Vermont via the scenic road — had led me right to the steps of the greater Eastern Seaboard’s well-known and best-loved Kripalu yoga retreat and training center.  And we’d found it completely by chance — not approaching even from the road, but across a footbridge through the wooded grounds.

From there, Frank and I walked down the empty great lawn, toward an attractive grouping of trees where we found another unmarked and absolutely fortuitous discovery: the labyrinth.

“Here we are,” we said.

Instinct and intuition had led us to this discovery at the end of our weekend away: a solitary walk through a spiritual landmark.  We went quietly. Frank walked ahead of me. In time I found I was chanting a wordless tune, which I kept up for another turn around the center of the circle. On my second rim of the labyrinth I saw the rocks marked with smaller rocks, remembrances left by others. On the third ring, toward the center, I smelled the balsam fragrance of the trees. As I neared the center I found I was walking more quickly, and at the center I stopped at the totem and recited the prayer for peace marked there in four languages.

Leaving the labyrinth by retracing my steps, I realized that walking the rings was, for me,  a lot like writing a novel: first you enter and circle the story, then you step to the outer ring and trace the frame of everything. You write and walk slowly and steadily toward the center, and once you are there you retrace your steps — refining, editing, noticing things you didn’t notice before — until you’re ready to reach the end, bow, and honor the journey.

I hope you will have a chance to walk a labyrinth one day. For me, this gift at the end of a long weekend away served to reaffirm my commitment to finding grace, gratitude, and generosity in daily life. What I realize tonight is that one needn’t go far to find these attributes. They are right inside of us and there to be recognized at any moment: we found the labyrinth and we were grateful. We walked it in silent contemplation, and we found a sense of peace and grace. Generosity? It doesn’t have to be a monetary generosity, does it? I think for today it’s enough that we were  generous in our silent gratitude toward the beauty of the mountain and for one another’s company.

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