A Long Walk by Amanda Ford
Our bodies are not our own, not entirely. Culture stakes its claim on each of us, shaping our muscles and bones and inhabiting our viscera.
When I was a teen, my friend’s mother said I was dangerous, a bad influence. It wasn’t because I was drinking or lying or stealing or smoking or getting tattoos or having lots of sex or any of the activities that typically send parents of teenagers into whirlwinds of anxiety. It was because I was walking.
“My mom thinks it’s weird that you walk everywhere,” my friend told me. I did walk everywhere. I could walk for hours. I loved it. Walking is not a typical pastime for a teenager in the suburban city where I grew up, which is why my friend’s mother looked askance at my ambulatory explorations. We are suspect of those who step outside the normal behavior.
We do not belong only to ourselves, we belong also to our culture, and in a culture that demands we use our bodies less and less, walking is more and more - a revolutionary act.
A person who walks is free: free to explore side streets, to experience the environment thoroughly, to think thoughts as big and wide as the sky, to commune and connect, to move into clarity, to avoid the stagnation of traffic jams, to feel blood flow and lungs expand, to shape a community.
I once heard a man in a wheelchair say, “Let’s go for a walk.” And we did. He rolled himself. I ambulated alongside. I walked. And he walked, too. It didn’t matter that he didn’t have use of his legs.
Yes, walking is a specific physical act, but walking is also an attitude, an approach to life. In some sense, walking can be done anywhere, even while sitting on an airplane seat, flying above the sea. This type of walking simply requires the right attitude and perspective.
Walking is freedom, it is flow and movement. A person with a walking spirit is not stagnant, not afraid of change.
Walking is a desire to observe the world around you and a willingness to witness reality as it is.
A walking perspective is an open perspective. A walker is flexible and curious. A walker is humble and does not take for granted the mundane details of human existence. A walker is an environmentalist, a feminist, a humanitarian.
A walker can be surprised and is willing to change her opinion.
A walking soul is as wide as the open road, as far as the horizon, filled with wonder and awe and deep gratitude for this life, for this body – pains and sorrows and disappointments and all.
My godfather’s name is George. His nickname in the town where he lives is, “The Guy Who Picks Up Garbage On The Side Of The Road While Walking His Dog.” For no reason other than an intrinsic motivation to help maintain the cleanliness and beauty of his surroundings, George carries a garbage bag with him on his daily walks and picks up all the litter he finds along the way. He receives no money or accolades for his efforts, although after years of doing this, somebody once wrote a letter to the editor of the local newspaper filled with praise and appreciation for George’s efforts.
It’s inspiring to see people act on behalf of the greater good, to give to the community without needing something in return.
When we walk, we put ourselves immediately, directly, viscerally into our community. We can look others in the eye, we can see where our skills and talents and – perhaps even more importantly – our basic efforts could be of use.
Walking is a way of experiencing, engaging with and shaping your community.
This piece includes excerpts from The Cure for Everything is a Long Walk, an original art companion booklet Amanda Ford created for her Movement Muse Power Promenade Workshop.
Amanda Ford is the author of Kiss Me, I’m Single and Be True to Yourself: A Daily Guide for Teenage Girls. She works as a personal trainer and yoga instructor, seeing clients in a private studio that she has named The Institute of Moves, Muscles and Eternal Optimism. Amanda is Lucia Journal's Editorial Advisor. Visit Amanda at movementmuse.com.
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