History of My Walking
I was over at friend’s house the other day observing her daughter who was trying to master that most fundamental skill in life, walking. She took a small tentative step, clumsily threw one foot in front of the other and bam!—fell on her face. She looked up expectantly; expecting what I couldn’t quite say, rebuke or praise, but the look on her face seemed to say, “What the hell just happened?”
I have become reasonably proficient at walking since my first attempt over twenty-nine years ago and have propelled myself into some interesting places and unexpected situations. Walking is a symptom of the chronic restlessness infects my family. My grandmother could often be seen trekking out slow laps around the park close to her house just as my grandfather, on the other side of the family, would tack on silent miles in the countryside. I was confused by this type of walking as a child. To me walking was a means of getting from point A to point B, and a rather slow way of getting from A to B. If there was no point B, no definite destination then what was the point of leaving A in the first place?
Therefore, my father was an enigma as he would drive deep into the Wyoming desert and proceed to walk to no place in particular. Not only did he drive to the middle of nowhere, he proceeded to walk in it. This random and spontaneous act could take place in the middle of the summer heat or the biting cold of winter. Utter confusion totally set in when my father began to drag me on these excursions. I would walk around with him confused as to why we were in this place, what we were doing and what we were looking for. I never asked my father any of these questions because I knew he couldn’t give me a reasonable, clear answer.
When I was seventeen I bought my first car and took my first step to transcending the action of walking. Rather than propelling myself to destinations by means of my own energy, I would now employ machine to transport me. I bought a 1984 Bronco. Shortly after I bought the thing I would find myself, almost against my own will, driving into the hills, abandoning the vehicle and walking around.
I few years ago I took up snowshoeing. This is the activity where one straps tennis racket like equipment to one’s feet and walks around in the snow. I’ve one-upped my father.
My father loves to play golf. He never rents a cart.
I few years ago I took a nine month tour through Central America . I hopped busses the whole way and walked the rest of it. For four months of my voyage I lived in the beach community of Manuel Antonio in Costa Rica and learned how to surf. Every other day I would walk to the two miles to the beach and let the waves have their way with me. From there I would buy a coconut, drink the milk for quick energy, and walk the two miles uphill back to the apartment I had rented. This is a story I shall someday share with children of my own, “You think you’ve got it tough. I had to walk two miles every other day to the beach to go surfing when I was twice your age.” Some people say that things never really change. I’m inclined to disagree.
In Manuel Antonio I met many of the ex-pats who now called Costa Rica home. Often, when I was introduced to somebody new, that person would say, “Oh, you’re the guy I see walking everywhere.” I’m not sure if was proud about that title or not, healthy enough to walk myself wherever I needed to go and too poor to afford any other means of transportation.
I began to feel like an apostle. When I was a kid and my mom read bible stories to me it seemed as though the apostles and Jesus spent eighty percent of their waking life walking from one place to another. I was also poor and wore sandals which added to my apostle like image (never mind my head was shaved and I carried around a surf board everywhere).
In my walking I had the chance to see many things that a person zooming by in a car would have missed. I would stop and watch the monkeys in the trees. At the beach I would gawk at the beautiful girls walking by. Once I stepped on a snake in my absent minded strolling. While that’s not an experience I wish to repeat it is an experience that will stay in my mind forever. Had I been driving, I never would have noticed the snake though I believe the snake still would have noticed me.
Every once in awhile, the ability to walk spontaneously leaves me. This is generally when I’m hiking in the mountains. I’ll space off, lost in my own thoughts; drag a foot, which will catch a rock, which will in turn propel me faster down the hill than intended. If I’m lucky some clumsy maneuvering will allow my feet to catch up with my momentum. If I’m unlucky I return to a state similar to that twenty-nine years ago when I was first learning to walk, bam!—flat on my face. Sad to say it, I probably handled that situation better when I was one-year-old than I do now days. I didn’t swear as much when I was one.
Whiskey and walking do not mix. This seems obvious, however; when get a quantity of whiskey in me the desire to go walking increases even as my ability to do so diminishes.
When I was seventeen my dad was going to drag me out in the desert to walk to God knows where. He suggested that we bring the twenty-two rifle. Walking became a lot more fun.
I don’t really go hiking any more because walking isn’t that fun now. I’m a server, so I constantly employ two skills I've mastered: carrying things and walking (as well as faking laughing at customers’ terrible jokes). When I have time off I prefer not to walk around. I feel that this will change once I’m not employed at job that requires so much walking. Maybe I should take the twenty-two. That might make walking fun again.
Once, when I was seventeen, my father and I hiked around the sandstone hills in the Wyoming desert. He knew of an area in which we could hike to the top of this hill and peer down into a golden eagle’s nest. There were chicks in this nest so we had to move slowly and quietly along the top of the hill so as not to evoke the wrath of the adult eagles. The eagle’s nest was as large as the dorm room I would rent two years later. (That says something for the immense size of the nest and the cramped quarters I inhabited in my first year of college.)
After arriving at point B my dad and I wandered around a bit to see if we could find anything else of interest and then headed back to the car.
My father wanted to take a longer path around the sandstone hills while I, not wanting to waste time, wanted to go over the hills in a straight line to the vehicle. Since neither one of us could convince the other of the merits of our chosen route, we split up. In hindsight my father’s path was the safer choice. Though the hills were smooth and rounded on ascent they dropped off on the west facing sides where I had to descend. This made for some precarious scrambling. I reached a point where I came to a cliff edge and found a five foot drop into a sandy cove. It was the only place I could see where descent even seemed possible so I scooted on my butt to the edge, steadied myself, and jumped right as a red tailed hawk flew out from underneath me. What I hadn’t seen from my vantage point was the ledge I had approached contained a cave underneath. I had jumped from the overhang of that cave wherein a family of hawks resided. Upon hearing me jump I had startled what I believe to be the largest hawk in existence and it took to flight. I had mentally prepared myself for the jump making sure to keep my knees slightly bent for impact, trying to land on the balls of my feet but the unexpected sight of this large bird underneath me caused me to loose all form in the air. I pin-wheeled my arms to try and gain a nanosecond of air born time so I wouldn't land squarely upon the hawk's back.
I had once again made an evolution of sort. I had graduated from walking to flying, though it was for the briefest of moments. Seeing a hawk underneath me was surely proof of that.
I am happy to report that I did not land on the hawk and it safely, while narrowly, flew underneath me. When I hit the sand in the cove I immediately fell into a crouch and looked up behind me, expectant to see another enraged raptor with talons outstretched for my eyes. All I encountered was nest slightly smaller than the eagles nest I had previously seen, devoid of any bird life.