Walking to 40
I’ve never been against running, per say. Unless you consider how I despise the heaviness I feel in my lungs when running, or the fact that every bone aches in response. When I run I worry about the damage to my knees. There’s also the fact that running of any kind triggers memories from elementary school presidential fitness tests.
No, I’m not against running, but I’d rather walk.
I wish I could pinpoint the first time I fell in love with walking. I suppose there’s a memory deep within that takes me back to a time where I felt the warmth of the sun and the embrace of my parent’s hand and listened to the sound of birds chirping along the path. But I don’t have any distinct memories that first started my love of walking. Rather, I have a slow accruing of images in my mind that over and over again take me back to putting one foot in front of the other.
For years I’ve walked. Any good friend and family member knows this about me: if I invite you for a walk, be prepared to walk. “Are we talking a “Kim - far” or everyone else’s definition of far?” That’s the question they ask. Because they know that when I walk, I go and explore and look and see and keep walking. I don’t think about how far I’ve walked or what it will mean to have to go back to where we came from. I just walk. Rather than measuring the distance walked, I have the chance to measure the sound of birds, the different shades of green in the leaves, the cadence of conversations, the prayers rising up like incense, and the changing seasons.
I’ve walked city streets. One time with my mother we crossed four lanes of traffic in Washington DC. She frequently reminds me of this and reiterates that I almost killed her. I’ve walked across my college campus up and down hills and through town. I’ve walked boardwalks and park trails in my hometown always with my mother and many times discussing our next adventure. I walked the city streets outside my first apartment imagining the people who lived behind the doors. I walked to find community and to feel the earth beneath my feet.
I walked under the African sun, homesick and teary-eyed. I walked under the baobab trees and through the red pepper fields, passing children jumping into the river and hearing their cheers and laughter. I walked along the dusty road waving to workers in the field. I walked to visit friends and spend hours shelling groundnuts and sharing stories.
When I walked in Africa, people would laugh and ask me, “Where are you going?”
“Just for a walk,” I’d tell them.
I don’t know what else to do other than walk, putting one foot in front of the other.
On August 25th I turn 40 years old. Over the last few years I’ve tried to push this date out of my head. I’ve been less than thrilled. My kids count down their birthdays months in advance and Charlotte is already talking about all the ages she’ll be next. She can’t wait to be older, and I don’t necessarily want to be younger, but I also don’t want to turn 40. In the evenings I wonder how the day went by so fast and with every turn of the calendar a part of me laments another month’s passing. Looming medical tests are on the horizon when I turn 40. But I’ve started to slowly realize that I can shift the narrative in my head. Turning 40 means that I’ve lived and loved and done hard things. My body has done beautiful and powerful things – walking 500 miles across Spain and birthing two children naturally. I am proud of my body and where it’s taken me.
In honor of turning 40, then, I’ve decided to take 40 hikes for my 40 years. Throughout the next 8 months I’ll lace up my hiking shoes and take to the trails. My only requirements are that the trail is at least one mile, and I have to walk 40 different trails. Sometimes my kids or my mom will join me. Other times I’ll walk alone. There will be hikes with my husband, and hikes with friends. I imagine there will be hikes that will push my strength and hikes where I’ll marvel at the beauty in front of me. I’ll walk by water and over hills, I’ll find moments to sit in the forests and listen for the hum of insects. I hope to hike in different states. But with each step I’ll feel the ground beneath me and trust that wherever I go, I’m not alone.
**If you’d like to read more from me and hear about my 40 hikes, you can sign up for my monthly newsletter, Walk and Talk. As a gift to readers and subscribers who sign up, I have a free downloadable resource: Walk and Talk with God: Reflection, Scripture references, and a how-to for your own contemplative walk.
***This post is part of a blog hop with other runner-mother-creatives. Click here to view the next post in this series on running, mothering, and making.