Walking and Talking

Paradoxical. Yeah, that’s me. I admit I check my Facebook account a couple of times a day, I post photos onto Instagram, play Words with Friends, read the news, text and FaceTime, and even – when necessary – write emails. Oh yeah, and I’m working on this blog. So I may be over-connected, just me and my little digital bubble.

At the top of Burlington Hill

But I also enjoy people – whether it’s in Five Minute Friendships, chatting to the cashier at the grocery store, you name it. But while it seems simple, it’s really become apparent how conducive walking is to conversation. We live about 10 minutes away from Burlington Hill. It’s only 450’ at the top, but we like to park about a quarter mile away and walk to the top and back, just short of an hour. Our primary objective is to get some exercise, but invariably we find ourselves discussing – life. What did you think about xxx? How do you feel about xxx? How did yesterday go? What do you want to do today? So, about that trip to xxx, should we xxx? I always look forward to these walks with my wife. I feel we have pretty good communication skills, but it just seems so natural to walk and talk.

On the trail to Hannegan Pass

One of my retirement goals this year was to get in as much hiking in my beloved North Cascades as possible. I’ve often hiked these mountains solo, but at this point in my life, it feels more prudent to have a hiking companion when my wife can’t join me. Rick, newly retired to this area, is a member of our local Sierra Club, as am I. We talked a bit about hiking, and headed out on the trails. It has been fun and interesting to walk and talk with him, and to show him some of my favorite places up in the mountains. And the more we walk and talk, the better we get to know each other, and connect as fellow travelers on this adventure we call life. 

I think of others I have walked and talked with. Multi-day backpacks in the Utah red rock wilderness with my brother-in-law John; backpacks and canoe trips with my great childhood friend John; a difficult conversation with a close family member while we walked and talked; walks in beautiful parks with visiting friends, walks with my wife’s sister and her husband around their adopted town of Port Townsend, and so many more. 

Find someone to walk with

In this most interesting and introspective stage in my life, connections and relationships mean more than ever before. I think we all feel a loss of deep, true and meaningful connections in these days of instant, impersonal digital communications. It feels like our entire social fabric is coming unraveled as we become more and more dependent on our devices, and we become an isolated island of loneliness and quiet desperation. I think we would all do well to find someone and take a walk – and talk. You may not only improve your physical health, but your emotional health as well. Let’s get walking!

Life in the Slow Lane

Life in the Slow Lane

Many people agree that my middle name should be ‘Trouble,” although it was often “Mud” when I was growing up, but I’m thinking it should have been “Faster.” I always tried to walk faster to school, and even faster on my way home (it was only uphill one way, and most often in the rain, not snow). I always wanted to be the fastest reader in class, but Candy always was able to beat me. When I finally got a bike, I needed to be faster than all my friends, especially racing down Rocky  Butte in Portland. Once I started driving, I went through cars the way most people go through a box of Kleenex. Then I got a job working for Western Electric in Vancouver, and getting to work was always a race against the clock. I swear to this day that eventually other commuters recognized my big old Chrysler, and pulled into the slow lane when they saw me coming. I actually used to track my time hiking trails in the North Cascades, and tried to beat my previous time the next time I was on the same trail. And I never thought I talked too fast, but that other people listened too slow.

I’m not sure when the change actually took place, but I recently realized things have changed. Sure, I’m still over the speed limit a bit on the freeway, but I pull into the slow lane when I see someone behind me who wants to set a new land speed record coming up behind. And I rarely even use bad words as they barrel past. I find myself timing trips into the megalopolis to avoid traffic stress, and even intentionally take back roads that will take longer so I don’t have to deal with the speeders and crazies on the freeway. I slow my steps when I’m walking to take in more of my surroundings. I stop for a photo op of some leaves dappled by sun and shade beside a trail. I definitely get passed on the trail more than I pass people these days.

I’m consciously slowing down to take the time to check in with my friends and family, and trying to talk less and listen more. I stand in a much longer line at the grocery store (*cough* Kroeger/Fred Meyer) to be helped by a real person, rather than trying to speed through a self-checkout line. I shelved my dreams for a fast sports car, and am more than content with my little four cylinder basic small Toyota SUV. We took the time to engage tablemates at a Yelp dinner event in good conversation, and came away enriched by the experience. 

Nearing age 70, maybe it’s that I’m almost able to see the final grains of sand running out in the hourglass of my life that makes me want to savor each and every one as they pass by. After rushing through my life, I look back and sense how much I missed with my focus on speed. Speed is always about Self, almost always at the expense of relationships. Now that I’ve identified the Speed Demon, I can call him out, put him behind me, and focus on living life to the full. (Warning – cliche’ ahead) “Better late than never” to learn to savor each precious passing moment. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to watch some sloth videos for inspiration.