The LAST WEEK of MyBigWalk (year one)

My father used to say I was impatient. Even as s a little girl  I hated waiting for things to happen.

“If you need an answer right now,” he’d say, “then the answer is no.”

My father was a patient man. He knew things happen in their own time, that  sooner or later you have the answer to your questions and you reach the end of the journey and finish the job — even if it feels like you never will.

For two months now it’s felt as if the END of MyBigWalk Year One would NEVER COME.  It’s sort of like those Frog & Toad books I used to read to my kids when they were small. My favorite story was the one in which Toad plants a garden. Toad, you may recall, is the less wise, more impatient friend in the pair. He wants a garden as lovely as Frog’s and so he plants and waters his seeds just as he’s supposed to.

But Toad can’t stand to wait for the garden to grow.  He wants the time to hurry by. He plays music to the silent soil, he shines a light on the garden all night long, and he despairs when nothing happens.

When they were small I read that story to my children night after night hoping they’d learn patience. Patience, I knew, would make them happier people.  The fact is that I certainly raised children who are more patient than I am.  But I never fully taught that virtue to myself. It’s not that I mind doing the work it takes to get somewhere or to get something I want.  Like Frog, I don’t mind shining lights on the dark soil all night long; I’d gladly play the violin long past midnight if the serenading would make tomorrow dawn exactly as I wish it would.

But the day can’t be controlled. Some seeds will be planted and they won’t sprout. Some, as Toad fears, will be too scared to grow. But either way, you end up with a garden. That’s the moral I always tried to take away from the story.

I’m sorry to say this year of walking didn’t teach me patience. But it has been a time for me to constantly remind myself that I have to take each step in order to get from here to there. It taught me that sooner or later, you will reach the end of the road.

And then, of course, you’ll have to decide where to go next.

“Don’t rush things,” I can hear my Dad saying. “You don’t have to be deciding things all the time.  Sometimes you just have to wait to see what comes up next.”

Boy, I wish my Dad was here to tell me that in person.


Day 232

The Wall Street Journal reports “Phone Calls, Even Voice Recordings, Can Get People to Go to the Gym”


Based on a Stanford University study, even the simplest motivator/reminder helps people fulfill their personal workout commitments. Are you using MyBigWalk to get yourself motivated? Even more to the point, would you like a MyBigWalking Buddy? If you do, I can make it happen! Let me know by posting a reply.  And THIS IS YOUR GENTLE NUDGE, folks! Happy Monday.

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 216

NYC skyline from Mills Reservation

“You know what?” Cynthia said on Saturday. “You really get around, don’t you?”

I can assure you, folks, she meant that in the best possible way. Anyway, she’s right. I do get around.

Seeing new towns, cities, and countries, meeting new people and learning how others live — whether it’s in India like our Mittaipink walker Kalyani; in  Lambertville NJ where a walk along my sister-in-law’s  gorgeous country road takes you by a  ramshackled Rod ‘n Gun Club; or in Paris…the discovery and advenutre of the new and unfamiliar is stimulating and expansive. It makes me feel like an active citizen of the world, and that makes me feel engaged and alive.

On the other hand, trying something new every week or every day might also be my way of trying to escape, or avoid, my own backyard. And if I like my life, my house, my family and my friends, it seems like I might be missing out on something if I’m always sauntering as far from home as I can get on a given day.

So last week I decided to stay close to home. Every walk I took was a walk in Montclair, either right from my own front door, or wherever a five minute drive would find me.

As many times as I’ve walked through Mills Reservation on the edge of town, I found new sights and fresh beauty when I walked there twice during the week. The sun coming through the trees like an inspirational poster that says “Today Is the First Day of the Rest of Your Life”, a man walking along the rim of the ridge reading a book (!) while his dog trailed behind him, and the beauty of seeing the city skyline from the small piece of forest in my town just 12 miles west of the Lincoln Tunnel, were all reminders that there’s plenty  that is fresh, lovely, and surprising close to home.  If only I can resist the impulse to travel further afield to find those things.

Please tell me what you like the most about walking close to home. Is it pleasure in the familiar? Comfort in routine? Or is it something else? I’d love to hear from you. You can post here, or write to me at Who knows, your observations may find their way into the MyBigWalk book some day.

** Henry David Thoreau said this in his lecture cum essay, Walking, circa 1861.

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 209

Since getting almost-pneumonia, I’ve come up with an impressive  variety of creative excuses and half-excuses to either justify not  walking or — even worse — tell myself I’ve already walked, or sort of  already walked, or walked enough for one day with almost- pneumonia forGod’ssakes!

Here, for your enjoyment, are my favorites…

1. OH MY GOD, I have pneumonia?!

2. I have almost-pneumonia and a fever.

3. It’s raining and I’m on antibiotics, I’ll just get sicker if I go out walking. Won’t I?

4. I walked up and down the stairs (from basement to 3rd floor and back again) at least a dozen times today so if I walk the dog for twenty minutes that should count (especially since I am recuperating from almost-pneumonia!)

5. I think that twenty-minute walk yesterday gave me a relapse.

6. I walked an hour yesterday and had to sleep for 13 hours — I can’t do that again.

7. I walked 12 NYC blocks from the car to the Neue Gallerie and 12 more on the way back.  And I walked around the museum for 3 hours without sitting once — surely that counts as a big walk, especially since I am still recovering from almost-pneumonia.

8. I’m better and I haven’t been to the gym in almost 2 weeks — I really can’t do both (yes, folks, join the Greek chorus…because I am still recovering from almost-pneumonia!)

9. It’s 88 degrees out. And I ran from the car to the Delaware River and walked up and down the river looking for my son’s regatta boat. It’s been forty minutes. Now that really counts….especially since I’m gonna have to walk uphill to the car when the day is over.

10. Anyway, nobody has to know. Right. I mean, if I don’t tell them, who’ll ever know?

So, what’s your excuse?

Day 193

This is for you, LESLIE!

Yet, folks, Leslie tells me today is Happy Green Celery Day. Actually, what Leslie tells me is that about thirty years ago when she was a student at Yale a certain fellow decided that amidst all the gloom and stress of mid-terms and research papers, people needed something to celebrate. And so as the first new leaves were budding a raw and brilliant green on the trees and plants in Connecticut he stood on a corner in the middle of campus and called out, “Happy Green Celery Day” to everyone who passed.  (I’m not sure if he dressed all in green, or even in a green celery costume, but it sure seems fun to imagine him all decked out in neon stalky leaves.)

Inevitably, Leslie remembers, people looked up and smiled.

Leslie has made it a tradition in her own house to announce on a given spring morning when it looks like nobody wants to get out of bed or when the allergy season we used to affectionately call “spring fever” has got the kids down, to  proclaims it Green Celery Day, for which she gets a grudging smile from her children.

So, folks, I proclaim today Green Celery Day. I hope I get a grudging smile from you. If I do, please pass it along on your walk today (the smile, not the ‘holiday’).  Giving someone a spontaneous reason to smile is one of those moments of generosity that costs us nothing.

So SMILE. It’s a ‘green’* way to spread your good energy around.  And Happy Green Celery Day to you and yours.

* yes, I hear the groans

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