The other afternoon, at work, I suddenly got stuck thinking about a couple of things I’m worried about–and which I’m going to do, even though they make me want to hide under the covers. I expect my medal any day now. By the end of the day, I was jumpy and exhausted from pointless worrying, and I just wanted to go home.
I took off the sandals I’d worn to work and put on the socks and grubby old sneakers that live in a hidden corner of my cubicle. Grubby old sneakers, cute work dress, and all, I walked down the stairs of my office building, went out the door by the loading dock/community urinal, and pointed myself toward home.
It’s not the fastest way home, walking. But it’s certainly the best. I headed down, past the bus shelter, and my brain let go and my legs took over. Stride, stride, stride. Or stump, stump, stump. I make no claims to grace. Past the restaurants, the paint store that went out of business, the cranes, the car rental place, the art supply store.
At the 10-minute mark, walking past the auto repair shops, I spotted the worn-out, overgrown roses along the chain-link fence of one of the parking lots and smiled.
It’s strange to me that I love walking so much. It’s so basic, so human. It’s like loving breathing—but all animals breathe, one way or another. Walking is more human. It’s what we do that the other apes don’t. Loving walking is like loving standing. Who loves standing? I don’t. But who loves walking? Me.
I love how walking shows me the world at a manageable pace. Nothing flashes by. At least, not the way I walk. I see every crack in the sidewalk, every plant. I know the bugs on the milkweed and the birds on the wires. I learn the shape of the land, the colors of the trees.
By the time I stumped up the tiny, gradual slope to my apartment, feeling the ache in my calves—god, so wimpy—my mind had settled. Back in my cubicle, there’d been a moment of resistance. If I’d kept the sandals on and walked the other way, to the subway station, I would have been home in 10 or 15 minutes, and could have gotten straight to the evening’s important work of lying on the couch. But the walk won, and I’m glad.
Photo: Helen Fields, those roses