As I have written here several times, this year is my 50th year and I have been doing a lot of reflecting on my life and the things that I have learned so far in my journey here on earth.
I have talked about the lessons I have learned from my garden, and from living a “green” life. These have included recognizing the importance of good companionship and learning when to let go, realizing that we cannot control everything, and treading lightly in other people’s lives.
Recently, I have also been reflecting on things I had learned but seem to have forgotten, as the years seemed to speed up in the second half of my life. One thing I learned early on is the pleasure of being outdoors, especially when you walk or hike. I really discovered this in my early twenties, as I would walk through the woods when I was a student at UC Santa Cruz. The campus is located in the Santa Cruz Mountains, nestled within the coastal redwoods with a breathtaking view of the Monterey Bay. It is an incredibly beautiful place.
When I left college to return to southern California, I missed the trees and the hills so much that I made it a point to find spots near me that were also beautiful. While there were few that came close in terms of sheer beauty, the joy of walking eventually became more important than the scenery.
I found that I loved to walk even if there wasn’t as much scenic beauty around me. I have relied on walking as my main form of exercise ever since. It turns out that this is a very wise decision on my part and I believe it is one reason why I have remained healthy for so long.
And there is evidence to back this up. According to Everybody Walk, walking boosts endorphins, builds bone mass, strengthens legs, improves balance, improves heart health, limits sickness, and works arm and shoulder muscles.
All of these are great reasons to walk, but there are other benefits that, for me, are often more important. I not only get exercise, but something about being in the fresh air, moving, gets me to thinking more clearly than I usually do.
I discover all kinds of things walking that I never see otherwise. And those things aren’t just the things I pass on my walk, but things I see within myself or in other people. I discover things, I remember things and I recognize things, sometimes painful and sometimes pleasant, but always important.
Reflecting on it, I realize that walking has led me to make some of the biggest decisions of my life, including the one to leave a career that I was miserable at to pursue writing full-time, and also the idea for the book I am working on now came to me while walking.
I have fallen in love while walking, and realized I was in love while walking, and sadly, there were times that I realized I wasn’t in love anymore while walking. I couldn’t help but notice that life really is just like walking– it starts with a single step and the only way to get anywhere is to take the next one and the next one.