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walk this way

I used to hate ‘taking a walk’. Seriously. HATED it. 

When I was a kid, my mom loved to walk. LOVED it. I could never figure out why. It took forever to get anywhere, and in my mind, it was boring. I could also say my little legs would get too tired keeping stride with my mother, but she was only “5’2 and ¾”, as she would put it. Her stride wasn’t much longer than mine.

I dreaded sunny weekend mornings, because I knew she would get this great idea to have me ‘come with’. By 1980, my 13-year old self was over it. There was no way I was walking anywhere. Scratch that, if it meant strolling the mall looking for cute boys, or walking to a nearby bus stop to get me out of the burbs and into the big city of Portland, then I was on board. Otherwise, I just didn’t see the point. 

Mom would always pick a destination, and that destination was usually Fred Meyer. 

“Ugh,” I would whine. “It’s SO FARRRRRrrrrrrr….uh”. Like any good whining child,  one-syllable words were always  dramatically elongated into two.

“Do I HAVE toooooooooo….uh???”

Somehow she would talk me into it with promises of Poptarts, or some other bribe-y treat she normally wouldn’t buy. 

Off we would go, me dragging my feet and complaining. Until I wasn’t. 

I don’t know what kind of magic my mom concealed in her cans of Tab or packs of Marlboro Lights, but she knew something I didn’t. 

She knew how to find adventure in walking along Fanno Creek, along railroad tracks, side streets and even a few alleys. She knew taking a walk was a good way to clear the head, get some exercise and maybe see some interesting shit along the way.

She knew, somehow,  that I would be taking my own walks as an adult. 

I thought about my mother today on my walk. My mom was alongside me, but not literally. 

Exactly 20 years ago today, my mother died unexpectedly. 

The day she passed in 2001, I held my 10-day old son in my arms, as my 4-year old daughter tried to wrap her head around why mommy was so, so sad. I couldn’t bear the thought of walking. 

Now, two decades later, I think about my mom often when I walk. I think she would be saying things like “You’re not lost if you haven’t gone that way yet” or “Will you settle for generic toaster tarts?”

I have always moved my body in some way or another. I have climbed numerous mountains, miles of hiking trails, and have done dozens of ‘fun-runs’. I have run every street within 5 miles of my neighborhood, swam in open-water races, kayaked and even did a mini-triathalon. It has all been amazing, fun, painful, frustrating and memorable. I am grateful to have been so active, but there is something special about the simple walk.

Walking brings me peace. Walking keeps me centered. When I couldn’t regularly run after a particularly rough chemo treatment, I at least took a walk. When I was recovering from my bi-lateral mastectomy, walking was the first thing I did, even if it was around my house.

I try to walk every day to move my wrecked, post-cancer body to keep it from stiffening up. I also walk for my head. 

And sometimes Poptarts.

Side note: Just how “FARRRRRrrrrrrr….uh” was that walk to Fred Meyer? I just looked it up on Google maps. It was 2 miles. 

As I look up through the cherry blossoms, I think, “Mom, this walk’s for you”. Also this imaginary can of Tab and Marlboro Light