Walking changes everything. Through streets or country rambles, this basic act liberates the mind from the responsibility of traveling all alone. There are other modes of movement, of course, but none so fundamental to our sense of individuality. Every child must learn to walk.
When the days are short and the wind is sharp enough to cut your lungs, hibernation comes to mind. Winter is a time of indulging in the charms of the home. With money in scarce supply ideas come to fill the mind left idling over restaurants too expensive and bills accumulating. Memories of the past become memories of a larger past, of when we did well, of when there was enough for everyone, at least for ourselves.
Buttoning my coat over layers of wool, my scarf serving as a shawl, I walk during these winter months. Maybe it's the vestige of my once-upon-a-time life as dedicated runner, training through postal service conditions year after year, or maybe it's the years in the city, of mass transit and elevated outdoor platforms, that makes me willing to embark on these daily ramblings. In the country as well as the city, the elements become a part of the walks, the wind becomes a guide. Walk first into the wind while you are strong and new to the journey, then turn when no longer can you bear it. Suddenly, you appreciate the old blessings about keeping that wind at your back.
Walking to get groceries or walking for adventure can yield in much of the same result. You see the things you couldn't see from the car. You notice your neighbor's lawn ornaments or see the birds hiding in the branches of the tree. If you walk every day you notice the changes in weather, one less layer today, three extra tomorrow. Walking cuts into time spinning over ideas and allows those ideas to shape themselves like the leaves blowing in your path or to angle themselves into the illumination surrounding the horizon. The news reports, the incessant attachment to information, the worries of how and where and what will be, all fall into step with the walker. Walking feels like something, is happening. Left, right, left, right, each step requires another, each step sounds like a tick-tock clock and each step sounds, after a while, like a blessed nothing. It's so nice, the timeless sounds of silence.
Television and internet, radio and podcasts, they're nifty ways of communicating and sharing. They fill us up when we're taking our proper refuge. Holidays centered on food, they're pretty special. They are collective tools for slowing down life and its ever present bustle. Cars are useful. They let us carry our packages or take grandfather to the store. We pack them full of children and set ourselves to carry our treasures for sharing with aunts and cousins. Useful is as useful does and cars and trucks are what keep the food flowing and the heat pumping. But with too much reliance on these useful objects, our musings become limited, too. To really feel, to really understand the world, walking is the most humbling course. And with humility once again comes reflection and awe. Legs are tools, arms are balance. Eyes are navigation and memory is a GPS. Walking over snow or along a barren stretch of concrete, stepping along cracks or twigs, none of it is bad or good. Walking in winter cools the heat of the mind and keeps the smell of the wind within reach while finally, rewarded we rush inside and continue our comfortable lives.