The Art of Walking

I’m heavily into the revision of the water poems that I’ve been posting about for the last year, and trying to get more fully into them. The most important aspect about this part of the project is focus. My poems can’t reach their potential unless I’m focused completely on them and completely in the moment. That means I have a strict policy of not multitasking while writing.

The thing about it is that once people start to multitask, they have a hard time focusing on only one thing. I do. Our minds are always at four places at once, so as I am in my deep revision, I have a policy of not multitasking at all, and I think it’s a policy I’ll keep after I’m done revising too.

This kind of mindfulness is not as easy as it sounds, and it’s been taking me a good deal of practice. One of the activities that I’m getting back into is mindful walking.

For years, I walked. When I lived in the mountains near Lake Arrowhead, I walked up to Strawberry Peak nearly every day with my dog. We loved it. He loved it so much that as soon as the sun began to blue the sky, he’d crawl on my bed and stare at my face. The moment I opened my eyes, he was on me, pulling me out of bed. We had an hour or two every morning to live completely in the moment, to be in nature. When we moved down to the city to be closer to work, he followed the same procedure every morning.

I had loved walking in the forest completely isolated from other people in the dawn hours of the morning for all those years. We’d see bears and other animals. We’d walk through meadows and watch the city from five thousand feet. However, the walks we had when we lived in the city were not worse. They were just as calm, just as introspective, just as interesting because I was turned inward at those points. 

There is a joy, of course, in seeing a bear. The mood of the world changes for that moment, and it passes by quietly or crashing through the underbrush. Either way, I always felt blessed by it. There were a lot of moments like that in the mountains. I saw a coyote playing by himself with a rag, and a bobcat asleep on a warm stone. There were moments in the fog when I’d look around and realize that I was surrounded by a coyote pack, and unafraid of the animals who were there just to check me out, I would talk to them.

However, there were moments in the city as well, the everyday moments that go by and people tend to miss their specialness, like Christmas mornings when I’d always walk through one of the local colleges. These giant building were abandoned completely, and I was left alone in a fully formed ghost town. There were mid-century modern houses that were revelations but whose beauty had been camouflaged by everyday use, and of course, there was the daily walk over the freeway. Where else in the world aside from Los Angeles is that possible.

More important than the special moments were the moments in between when I was able to become fully invested in what life is most of the time. There is beauty and significance in the silence of those moments, and they were what helped me focus.

My dog has gotten old. It’s a trial for him to hobble from one side of the living room to the other, so I stopped walking. It seemed wrong to do without him, but of course, that’s ridiculous. The first and best thing I can do to help my revision is to start walking daily again, and seeing the world for what it is rather than trying to see it through the warped and tragic lens of multitasking, this lens that keeps us always in that place of our worst fears for ourselves, that place where we are always preparing for tragedy.