Sometimes the thoughts seemed so intense and the ideas came with such revelations and clarity that I wanted to stop and write where I was. Other times it was the lyrics of a song – because I have the ability to only remember one line from any of the myriad songs that I enjoy and have enjoyed. Amazing how an old rock and roll lyric can just pop into the mind.
It is really part of walking, mulling over ideas, coming to clarity on problems. It was a walk that helped me to deal with my son’s death in New Zealand in 1989. The walk cleared my thoughts, ultimately allowed nature to inspire me and created a path that continues today even though that particular walk ended in one afternoon.
Now that I reflect there are so many questions that continue to challenge me. For example, at what point have you gone somewhere? How many steps make a hike? We know that a journey starts with one step, but what is the second step? We must be someplace new immediately. When do we feel like we have arrived at a new place? Are we aware of this immediately or do we have to walk miles?
Which step transcends the sense of going and becomes being? Is it time, distance, vision, memory, physical, mental, or external influence that gives us the feeling of newness? I enjoyed leading 100 foot hikes, almost crawling as we looked at mosses, rocks, sticks, lichens, plants and I have had immersion with a backpack in badlands, mountains, prairies, and forests and while they are longer, each day, each walk is different and inspiring.
Walking around the lake was filled with daily thoughts, but at the end it was also filled with larger thoughts about the size of the lake, the importance of freshwater, the attacks on the quality of water, the isolation of bays and people in such a massive location, and the need to share our experience so people can care about water and lakes everywhere. I carry memories of hard times with physical pain, of challenges of rocks, windblown trees, deep water, rain, wind, insects, hunger and overwhelming sense of beauty. There are moments sitting with Kate on a rock, walking together through the water, watching a bird or an eft, shifting moods, exhaustion, and eating blueberries. It is a memory that exacts older memories of getting married on the Sailboat I captained, exploring the Apostle Islands, sailing in to Duluth where our son was teaching sailing on smaller boats, overnight in the midst of the waters and going towards Isle Royale. Does walking intensify memories?
I believe that the moment we crossed the lift bridge, the point at which we said good-bye to our daughters and grandchildren and turned our back on them and Duluth to look and move towards Wisconsin we things changed and we were now separate and on our walk. I think every walk that everyone takes depends upon a moment, a step, where we shift our concentration, find a new focus and it is that step that truly takes you to somewhere else.
Nietzche said, “Only those thoughts which come from walking have any Value.” And Wallace Stevens captures our experience when he wrote:
The truth depends on a walk around a lake, A composing as the body tires, a stop
To see hepatica, a stop to watch
A definition growing certain and A wait within that certainty, a rest
In the swags of pine-trees bordering the lake.
Perhaps there are times of inherent excellence”