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Walking to a Better Place

“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.” — Søren Kierkegaard

As I write this, it’s warmed up to -12 degrees Fahrenheit outside. On the summit of Mount Washington, a few hour’s drive away from me, the temperature is currently -45 with a wind chill of -107 degrees. Simply put, this is not a good day for a hike. But every day is a good day for a walk, conceding that some days we have got to be a little more creative to get the steps in.

If my family or my neighbors were to observe my behavior on certain days when I feel trapped in the house, they’d think I was crazy (they likely do already). I’ll walk up and down the stairs ten times to get the blood moving between meetings, circumnavigating the interior of the house in a circle (always counterclockwise, for reasons I can’t explain) and now and then throw in some burpees or pushups to spice things up. This has not led to six-pack abs, but nonetheless it does a body good.

Clearly, getting outside is the better way to move. Long walks on pavement are okay, but I prefer to walk on local trails not far from home, with trees and the occasional dog walker as company. Hiking is a favorite form of exercise, practiced in moderation for reasons of practical living as opposed to lack of desire for more. We simply can’t do everything, but doing a lot of things in moderation seems to work for me. We are as much what we say no to as the things we say yes to.

Walking has remained the one constant form of exercise that has followed me wherever I’ve gone in this world. I’ve walked in places as diverse as the Old City in Jerusalem, the Mayan port city of Tulum, Red Square in Moscow, amongst the Redwoods in Muir Woods and followed in the footsteps of Thoreau at Walden Pond, but I’ve never taken more steps in any place than I have on the plot of land I currently reside on in New Hampshire. Place is variable, the stride varies, but the act of walking remains a constant companion.

As the temperatures creep back up I’ll plot my escape from this self-imposed exile I call home and get back to outdoor walking. There are empty beaches to explore, ridge trails to traverse, and faraway places calling me. Walking is the most reliable way to get to a better place, simply by putting one foot in front of the other.

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