Above all, do not lose your desire to walk: every day I walk myself into a state of well-being and walk away from every illness. I have walked myself into my best thoughts, and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it…Thus if one keeps on walking, everything will be alright.
Walking is also an ambulation of mind.
Every walker is a guard on patrol to protect the ineffable.
~Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking
The quotes above describe pretty well the way I’ve come to feel about walking lately. I’ve done a lot of walking in the last month, more than usual, primarily because I’ve found a beautiful place to walk that allows me to surround myself with nature, minus the cars and sidewalks of my neighborhood. The trails at the North Carolina Museum of Art (a 10-minute drive from my house) are well-designed and offer both paved and gravel paths that wind through gently rolling hills and woodland glens. They’re varied enough that I can choose a route based on my mood and energy level, as well as how much time I have.
The move back to North Carolina has been a good one, but it has also come with some challenges, and walking the museum trails has become a meditative, centering activity for me. It’s as though I’m literally walking my way through all the adjustments, walking the pieces of my life—and myself—back together. In the month since I discovered the trails, I’ve walked and talked myself through emotional days, allowed my feet to wander and my mind to rest on hectic days, and embraced the beauty of nature on all of them. I’ve worked through problems and had “aha” moments, and I’ve felt the magical energy that courses through the trees and the birds and the sun and the earth.
Tonight, I emerged from a wooded section of the trail and climbed to a spot where I could look back down the hill and see the first tinge of brown in the meadow grass and the slight “un-greening” of the trees that hints at the fall color to come. The sky was gray, the weather damp and chilly and just a bit windy, and I felt alive and grateful and full of joy. In that moment, everything was exactly as it should be. All was right with the world.
The lovely side benefit of my trail walks is that I bring that feeling of perfect synergy back home with me and carry it with me through my days. Just knowing that the trails are there, that there is a place where I can go and walk to still my mind and renew my spirit, is a source of peace and strength. I’ve come to know the truth of Kierkegard’s quote—“if one keeps on walking, everything will be alright.”—so I will keep walking, and everything will be alright, because walking will make it so, no matter what “it” is.
(Photos by Viki Atkinson – NC Museum of Art Walking Trail, Raleigh, NC )