When you’ve been walking for 200 miles, stopping becomes the hardest part.
When you’ve been out in the wilderness, home is the scariest thing you can think of.
When all you’ve done is move, stillness feels like it’s taking you all kinds of places you never wanted to go.
When I finally came home, I wanted to be still again. But in order to find stillness, I had to move back into it.
Early this autumn, I left my home for almost a month to cross into and over the caverns and crowns of some of Wyoming’s wildest lands—the hearts of the Absaroka and Wind River Ranges. When I returned home, dirty, strong, weather-beaten and river-eyed, I felt like a caged animal. I had no idea how to go from walking an average of 10 miles a day, from sleeping in a different nook each night, from rising to a brand new peak each morning to living a relatively sedentary, predictable life where home is always the same place you left it, and “working” requires brain, not leg, power. I did not know how to go from wild back to civilized.
What I really wanted was to meet in the middle: To find my way from the Wild back into Civilization by a route that allowed me to keep at least some of my newfound wildness in me… even as I was rooting back into my role as a responsible townbound gal.
The answer turned out to be pretty obvious: Just. Keep. Walking.
For me, walking is the link between my love of the wild and my need for culture and community. Walking is a practice through which I can connect with myself fully, wherever I am. And it is that fullness of being, the stillness that comes through movement, that I crave more than any particular setting, no matter how stunning the vistas. Wherever I am, whenever I am there, I always can find enough space and time to go for a walk—be it for five minutes or five hours, for 50 strides or 50,000.
I can walk on a mountain trail; I can walk on a sidewalk. I can walk along the river; I can walk along the road. I can walk in the fireglow dawn; I can walk in the diamond-starred dusk. I can walk with my mother; I can walk alone. I can always walk, and I do, every day.
While the type of walking my summer trek required—walking to reach a destination—possesses a powerful purpose and sense of high stakes that only comes from “needing to get somewhere, for some reason,” the real wonder of walking happens not when the focus is on the progress or destination, but the act itself.
Walking becomes transformatory (physically, spiritually, mentally and emotionally) when you begin to notice the feel… of how each stride slices the air thick with freeze, of how your breath sharpens and quickens, more and more, on the gradual and then steep slope up, of how your chest expands to boundlessness the second your heart releases its climbing clench as you turn around to wind back down home.
When I realized I didn’t have to be going somewhere to experience the deep peace walking washes over my body and being with each and every stride, I found a way to come home to myself again.
When I am out walking, I am wild again. But walking also gives me a presence and peace that softens the wildness so it flows into my civilized experience in currents that don’t upend me.
Walking saved me the same way it took me away … and all the way back to the point of needing to be saved again.
Thank you for coming on this little walk with me, winding through some special moments I captured during my walking practice these past couple months.
I encourage you to just go for a little (or BIG!) walk today. At the fall of each step something waits for you, I promise, because walking has a way of making sure we stop to see and feel what magic is within and all around us.
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