By the end of August, friends had stopped inviting me to lunch. This lifestyle change was hard to accept for social, financial, and physical reasons. For example, I began having to issue my own invitations, pay for my lunch or even treat, and not only that, I also lost ready-made opportunities to travel by foot. The frequent lunch dates had propelled me into a regular two-mile walk, one mile to get to a restaurant and one to return home, and now these had come to a dead halt. In an earlier blog I also talked about walking to “take care of business,” which I was thinking could supplement or even replace the lunch walks. The latter — which became Plan B– still works occasionally, if I have to take a check to the bank or go to the post office, but there is no way I can get enough exercise through errand-walking. The main obstacle, as it turned out, is that some days I may have five or more errands, two going one direction and three going another, and on other days have no errands and no reason to leave home.
Once I realized that Plans A & B were failing, I decided I just needed to walk two miles a day and not be concerned about accomplishing anything else at the same time. A comment on my earlier blog by Dick Clark, an educator and local blogger, led me to the book, The Circumference of Home, One Man’s Yearlong Quest for a Radically Local Life. The author, Kurt Hoelting, chose to travel by foot, kayak, bicycle, and occasional public transportation based on the realization that his own carbon footprint on earth was sizable, largely due to air travel. He challenged himself to see if he could make a significant personal change, at least for one year. What interested me most about the book was Hoelting’s research on walking and our history as a species. He cited scientists, philosophers and poets to make his case, reporting that, “Walking preceded and made possible our extraordinary abilities to make and to think, rather than the other way around.” He argued that walking has been the mode of transportation for Homo sapiens for thousands of years and is still a common way of getting around in many other parts of the world, and that traveling everywhere in planes or cars disconnects us from the natural world. He also said that Jean-Jacques Rousseau “enshrined walking as an end in itself,” when in earlier eras walking had only been viewed as a way to get from here to there.*
I took to heart the notion that my body was made for walking and have covered at least two miles daily for about three weeks. Recently, a physical therapist told me that I had to improve my posture so my neck wouldn’t jut out and my shoulders wouldn’t round forward. (I’m paying for all those years of ignoring my mother’s admonitions to stand up straight.) I try to carry out the therapists’ directions to pull in my neck and push back my shoulders while I follow my usual walking course, even though the unnaturalness of holding these positions remind me of Frankenstein’s monster’s stiff, jerky movements. (His “father” didn’t give him any choice about standing up straight when he created him.)
It will be obvious that I haven’t yet viewed walking as an end in itself, as I ponder the following: Will I get skinny? How long before I have more energy and feel stronger? How soon before I have overcome 40 years of slumping and jutting? Not knowing any of the answers, I guess I’ll just have to keep walking to find out.