Saturday, March 9, 2013

In Good Company

Weekday mornings, my tennis shoes and backpack stand ready to go. I throw some dressier shoes into the pack, sling the backpack on and head off to work on foot. It isn't such a big deal at all except that in Wichita, KS, few people walk to work. It is only about a mile and a half and after the initial crossing of semi-busy Central avenue, it is a pleasant stroll through a quiet residential neighborhood and then back again at the end of the day.

It all started with The Way, a movie about the Camino de Santiago in Spain. I watched the movie over Thanksgiving break and I became quite interested in the Camino and the meaning of the pilgrimage. That led, of course, to books and in about a months time I had read four books: two on the Camino de Santiago and two on other journeys. They were all wonderful and compelling in their own way. Each of the books featured a person on a journey and how he/she was changed by the experience So, I decided that there was no reason why I couldn't make my own journey each day.

And thus far, most workdays, I have. It's been beautiful really. Crisp cold mornings, some cloudy and some clear.  I have noticed the beauty of each bare branched tree and the singing of the birds.  I have time to think and to pray. Most days I just try to be aware, to notice what is around me and to appreciate my health, my legs, and my senses which allow me to take it all in. I do what I learned from my dad and I pray for the people and edifices I pass. I think about my upcoming day and a group of middle school kids I will teach ( and though I may walk through the valley of sarcasm, lift me up)  and my little readers ( long may they read!) and my coworkers (give them strength).  I think of my daughters and ask God to hold them in His light.

The benefits of walking are many: building muscle tone, cardiovascular  health, mental clarity, and then one good day my husband came home from his yearly check-up telling me a new advantage. "My doctor" he said, "told me that walking makes your butt smaller."  Good enough.

Mostly I do it because it slows me down, helps me live in the moment and gives me more time in solidarity with those who have to walk, who live outside and who brave the elements not because they have a choice but because they are lacking shelter.  By the time I reach my destination,  I am more grateful for my job, my students and my colleagues. I am more aware of my dependency on others and more aware of the need to slow the heck down and listen.

If you are interested, here are the fabulous books I read on walking:

The Way is Made by Walking by Arthur Paul de Boers
I loved this book. He begins, "Once I walked 500 miles to church..." and the rest is a beautiful chronicle of his journey to Santiago.

Walk in a Relaxed Manner: Life Lessons from the Camino by Joyce Rupp.
The author also made the whole pilgrimage and she describes her experiences along the way. She was 60 when she took the journey and this fact helped me decide that if she could walk 500 miles over 6 or 7 weeks, I could surely manage 3 miles a day.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
This is one of the best books I have ever read! I loved  Harold Fry and every minute of his pilgrimage. I loved what happened to him as he took this journey. A beautiful book. As I walk to and from school, often a couple of lines come to me from this book: "Life was very different when you walked through it" and 'It surprised Harold how fast and angry cars seemed when you aren't in one." So true.

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
A hilarious, irreverent account of hiking the Appalachian Trail. I liked it that he did it in starts and stops and it wasn't completely successful. Still, he hiked that trail.

So, this is my journey since January. In an attempt to see my life as a pilgrimage, to become more mindful and to recognize my workplace as holy ground, I am donning my shoes, throwing on a pack and heading down the road. I am in good company.



  1. A Walk in the Woods...a favorite. Thank you Ellen for sharing your beautiful words.

  2. A Walk in the Woods...a favorite. Thank you Ellen for sharing your beautiful words.