Walking and Thinking
Early afternoon and the blue sky, covered now and then with pillow like clouds being pushed by a breeze which reminded us that winter was recently left behind. As I walked the stone road along the edge of the lake with my dog, the temperatures in the high thirties with a windchill pushing it down into the low thirties causes me to grit my teeth and be thankful I carried gloves with me.
I walked the stone road until I reached the bend in the lake. I sat on the edge of a smooth granite slab, my legs dangling over the edge, feet almost touching the water. Jack, my dog walked to the edge and sat beside me. The slab warmed by the sun. I watched as fish rose from time to time and the breeze blowing gently across the water’s surface causing small ripples.
This time of year, on this side of the lake few others venture allowing me the solitude which I sought. I became restless after a few minutes, thoughts racing around in my head. I unzipped my backpack and retrieved my journal and fountain pen. I began to write about the activities of the week which had just ended. The double bombing Monday morning at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, the explosion at the factory outside Waco, Texas and the activities on Friday which saw one of the alleged bombers killed and the other taken into custody.
As a social worker and also as one who cherishes his sanity and the solitude which he creates around him; I found myself not paying much attention directly to those actions, but they remained in my thoughts. Why would someone do such a thing? This is a particular thought which I allow to come and go, never allowing it to spend much time in the forefront of my thoughts because I know anxiety and poor sleep will not be far behind.
It is times such as these that I turn to my long deceased friends Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, John Borroughs and Ralph Waldo Emerson to help me make sense of such things. They are of little direct help other than to remind me that there are some things in life for which logical sense will never be made. Instead I turn my tangled web of thoughts to those things which I can understand; nature. The solitude and solace provided by nature begins the process of untangling those thoughts. Here things are much simpler, as they should be. Henry thought a walk spoiled when he couldn’t out-pace the town and its news and when his mid was not successful shedding that news and those thoughts.
I began to think of my walk as spoiled so I retreat further into the solace and solitude brought to me by my walk in nature. I focused my breath and with shaky hand wrote and wrote; thoughts streaming forth as if from a faucet left on. Here amidst the pine trees and the rippling water I can breathe again. My breath comes easier, more rhythmic. Here my tangle of thoughts continues to unwind.
After a short time my thinking becomes increasingly clear. I can hear the chirping of nearby birds and the ripple of the water as the breeze, now more noticeable continues to disturb the once placid surface of the pond.
The walk has done its job. My thoughts, slowed to a snail’s pace are now clear. I acknowledge there is no sense to be made of this past weeks events and it is better to leave them where they began. I cap my fountain pen, close my journal and cinch the cord tight around the smooth leather binding. I sit for a few more minutes and decide it is time to go. Jack and I make the return walk to our car; my heart and head lighter from this walk.
It is humbling to know these thoughts will return again. It is comforting to know I have the woods in which to walk to help make sense of what I can to lighten my load.