The Sky Above
After just a few years, it is possible to wear shoes out to the point of their not being fixable, even to a skilled repair person. Materials of the footwear collide with materials of the earth—its built and natural surfaces—enough times, with enough impact and velocity, and that rubber and leather and perhaps synthetics and cement and stone grind into each other, impress each other, meet and merge. Then there’s the consideration that our feet themselves—and calves and knees and thighs and hips, the bones and joints, ligaments and tendons, the stretch and clench of muscles under skin—are less likely to wear out too soon the more often we use them within reason, the more often we set out for a brisk walk or an amble. Despite the ubiquity of walking, it’s a sophisticated coordination of body and brain to take even one step, it becomes a critical element of independence and access; it’s a convergent blessing of practice and time and luck to take, say, my yesterday’s 12,442 steps, one after another, under a bright blue sky, during this week’s record-breaking heat wave.
With cell phones at hand—and if the winds cooperate—it’s possible on walks to talk with loved ones, to take care of business, to listen to audio books or podcasts or the radio, and I’ve done all of these efficiency-boosting multi-tasks with my step-counting multi-tasking device. It’s possible to walk in company with a beloved and match paces of step and stride, to trade the talking and the listening roles with each other, to solve all the big problems and imagine a future—R. and I have done this for hundreds of miles together already and plan, God willing, to continue our walks for hundreds of miles into the future.
It’s also possible to walk by yourself, to walk without listening to anything other than the wind and the traffic, the steps against surface, the breath and the heartbeat. You can think of your maternal grandmother and how she spent Saturdays cleaning the house and then getting her hair set and her nails done in preparation for her office work week ahead. You can think of your father and his gardens and how he would have hated working in this heat. You can think of your friend’s mother who passed last week and your friend who passed this week, their bodies defeated by cancer. You can think of their beauty and the gift of their lives to you and hundreds, thousands of others. You can look forward to going to an independent bookstore with your daughters and meeting friends at dusk in the clear, cool waters of the reservoir downstream of the dam. You can shake the ice in your insulated water bottle and catch and melt a cube in your mouth. You can return home in sweaty silence—and flooded with gratitude and joy that you’re alive and you can walk and you have people to love who love you.