One of my professors last semester—a wonderful, whacky man—recommended developing a meditation habit to help buffer the whorls and eddies that come with being a human. I have neither the ayahuasca nor the willpower that he uses to reach his own personal enlightenment, so I go for walks instead. (I think that still counts).
There wasn’t much else to do for the past year, anyway. This was my first spring at university, as I was abruptly sent back home to my childhood bedroom last March. This year, a patch of yellow lilies bloomed outside my window. (I sent a picture of them to my boss, who loves bright colors). I’ve been watching a family of bunnies grow up down the street. (I wonder if they realized anything was wrong?). A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon senior prom at the local high school, which was taking place outdoors on the football field near my house—elegant dresses and tailored tuxedos, all paired with matching masks.
There are little cracks everywhere, though; every restaurant I walk past has a “We’re Hiring!” sign pasted up in the window—a memento of all those workers who were called essential then laid off anyway. I’ve only recently grown comfortable walking unmasked (and I still cringe at movie scenes and photographs with bare-faced crowds, as if I’ve forgotten there was, in fact, a time before COVID—and that presumably there will be a time after). If I were to stop and read the headlines at the newspaper box, I might be reminded that the United States alone has 600,000 dead (the entire population of my home city of Pittsburgh, twice) or that even as we vaccinate and unmask so much of the world is still spiking.
And a walk can only take you so far. I could not walk to Maine, where my grandfather suffered and survived a heart attack and my grandmother suffered and survived a stroke, both in the space of a week. I cannot walk across the emotional distance that has accrued between some of my closest friends and me, whether due to differences of opinion or time apart or just sheer, raw exhaustion. I cannot walk back the lost year.
Thomas Jefferson was, among other things, an avid walker. He wrote: “The object of walking is to relax the mind. You should therefore not permit yourself even to think while you walk. But divert your attention by the objects surrounding you. Walking is the best possible exercise.” I’m inclined to agree. Lifting is boring. Yoga hurts.
I went for a walk with my roommate Joe tonight; it started raining, and so we laughed and splashed in the puddles.