Four—that’s the number of miles I am walking three or four times a week now. It’s like reclaiming a better version of myself, renewing a connection with the land that’s different than what I experience working in the garden. Sleep comes easier and deeper at night, my mind gets clear, and on hard weeks like the one that’s just ending, I am able to sort through between what matters and what doesn’t.
Today, for part of the way, I dwelt with the words and thoughts that are beginning to take shape as I prepare the homily for one of the three members of our parish who died in a 48 hour span. I had my phone with me and decent reception so I used YouTube to get to some music I haven’t heard in a while—on the way back on these treks on Old Selma Road, I have to walk up a moderately steep hill and I find the music gives me a rhythm that overcomes all that complaining and resistance my body wants to unleash, about half-way up the hill: “it hurts too much, it’s too hard hard, it’s too long, I’m so hot, why am I doing this?”
After the first couple of times I took these walks, I gathered up a walking stick and some pepper spray. Around the curve from the farm, heading east, there’s a Rottweiler who came flying toward me, teeth bared and spittle flying. Scared the sweet bejesus out of me. Recently, though, I happened to hear his human friend call him Rocky. Now as he comes bounding in my direction, I stop and calmly say, “Hi, there Rocky—look at you being such a good dog and taking care of your homestead.” Mostly, that catches him by surprise and you see that pea brain of his trying to process these strange data. “She knows my name and she is a stranger and I am totally confused.” Sometimes he just flops down, sometimes he stays on the property and walks along, with me across the street and he growling, but not messing with me. I am always cautious and I’d use the pepper spray and walking stick if I had to, but I believe we have some kind of truce going.
There’s a little creek that runs alongside the road a little further down, and thick woods on either side. When I first started started walking down the road, I wore jackets and sometimes even gloves, and the wind could blow something fierce. One day, it was so windy, I heard trees literally clacking against each other as they bowed and bent in the wind. There was only the palest green sheen as you looked at the woods down the road, tiny new leaves little more than a glowing promise.
Now, the shade is dense, the heat and humidity are rolling in, and in the past two weeks, when I’ve been thirsty, I’ve been able to pick juicy, ripe, wild blackberries to slake my thirst. A bank of wild roses is in full bloom and I’ve watched nettles, poppies, crimson clover, and these incredible little purple flowers bloom and fade. The black-eyed Susans are also beginning to bloom.
I walk next to a couple of pastures that have a fair number of cattle. I am deliciously amused by the way in which the cows stop what they are doing and turn to watch me as I approach. I always greet them which, in turn, makes them think I might have some food with me (or at least that’s what I think is going on), because darned if they don’t all start walking along with me, they and I on either side of the fence, until they reach the end of the pasture; they then watch me and moo as I continue my trek. I’ve seen deer, raccoons, a small bunny who was beyond terrified by me, hawks, an owl and a small turtle crawling across the road.
Walking in the promised land is what this feels like…