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Pretty Good at Walking


“What are your strengths?” It’s a trite interview question, usually one which the interviewee is prepared to knock out of the park. We’re polished and shiny. We have a crisp resumé, highlighting every positive thing ever done, including the generous smile to the baby confined to a cart at checkout in Costco. We know how to present ourselves, or perhaps more true, when to present ourselves. We can all be rather shiny given the right light.


A previous version of myself might have answered the above with attributes such as ‘friendly, diligent, loyal (at times)," using words meant to sell myself, presenting myself in the best possible light, or in the way I think the other human across the desk would like to perceive me. I am exceptional with this skill set.

After a life of well-documented hypocrisy, I have thought much about my redeeming qualities, if any that I posses, the most shiny of my strengths. I’ve thought about this for hours, a rumination of a narcissistic bend. As a side note, I have spent ten times the amount of time ruminating on my not-so-pretty qualities, you know, for balance. This not-pretty list is extensive and detailed, even being re-written to accommodate newly discovered unsightly attributes.


(gasp)


Being human seems to come with an out-of-balance bend towards our less-desirable traits; I am no exception.


And back to my strengths, or strength as it seems to be. I have mulled over various characteristics and abilities and attributes. After much analysis, I have come to the conclusion that my greatest strength is my average ability in the realm of walking. Not to brag, but I am pretty good at walking. notably OK, remarkably ordinary. Despite unexciting nature, it is far and way the best of what seems to be a mediocre showing of other 'strengths'.

Sure I can run and I have - Long Beach Half, Las Vegas Full, Big Sur Full, Portland Full, Tacoma Full, Houston Full. And then I dabbled in other running - Huntsville 50, Rainier to Ruston 50, White River 50, Leadville 100. To clear, I can safely say I did more walking than running in any of these 'races'. And then I stopped. There were reasons, the major one a physical limitation of arthritis in my ankles in my early thirties. I was told to never run again.

Running was who I was, a massive chunk of my identity.a point of pride, an anchor of who I was. And then it was gone. I free-floated, seemingly untethered.


I took up walking. Some people might call what I do hiking, but I would ask what the difference is between hiking and walking (slowly pulls out well-worn soap box). Is it the presence of trekking poles and if so, when might this be considered trekking? Does hiking happen once you’re in the woods? Or perhaps hiking is only if some elevation is attained? When does hiking become climbing? We have quite a few words in English that describe various states of movement - stroll, walk, jog, run, hike, trek, climb - causing various folks to feel better about themselves when compared to others and their much lowlier forms of movement. If I had a point, it is that the nuances and differences are rather meaningless. I would contend that people who say that they are hikers, going for a hike, out hiking, are only trying to fancify (not a word) walking. I’m OK with being just a walker.


While most of us started to walk between 10 to 18 months (1.5 yrs for you month snobs), it

wasn't until much later in my life that I realized that I was pretty good at walking. I began to notice my extra average walking ability as I was walking along some rocky beach and I was well ahead of others struggling to balance on rocks. To be clear, I don’t believe I am better at walking than others (walking hardly seems to be an area of competition, except for those speed walking humans that ‘walk’ faster than I can run), but I tend to do it more than others; I do a lot of walking. Maybe it boils down to practice or some odd efficiency, or as a friend recently assessed, a different baseline of fitness. This all seems a bit nebulous, inconclusive. I remain uncertain.

I just walk. And I walk for miles. This last weekend I walked 17 miles with about 3000 feet of up. I carry 3 liters of water, layers in case I get cold or wet, a camera with two lenses, a walking pole (in case I need placebo help or just need to fight off a cougar with a fancy chopstick), and all of this adds up to about 30 lbs of weight..


I walk not for the sake of walking, but to see pretty things. I will happily walk to see a sunrise on top of some peak and then do it all over again the next week. I walk so I can find myself consumed by a transcendence whilst diving into an alpine lake fringed with blue ice and capped with white snow. I walk in hopes of bumping into mountain goats or being surprised by a duck preening amidst a flurry of water droplets flung far by its beating wings. I walk so I may be reminded (again and again) what it feels like to sense the wind rippling across my skin in ribbon-like waves. I walk to know the rush of being alone in the dark, being seen and not seeing but for the narrow barrel of light emanating from my headlamp. I walk so I might stumble into valleys in which I've never been, taking in shades of green leaves and prickly pine needles hanging in an air more vibrant than the last place from where I came. I walk so I might see my Gaia map fill up with pretty circles and colorful lines representing adventures lodged deep into my chest. I walk so I might bump into God as it’s only out there where I can feel his physicality, his breath. I walk to experience a wonder, an awe that is unavailable to me anywhere else, while doing anything else. And so I walk, if only so that I can see and feel a life vibrating in the most intimate, palpable details. It is in walking that my dulled senses come back to life, thrumming anew, more capable to take in the world for all its richness, its unattainable depth.


And let’s be honest, my brain cells tell me that the magic is not necessarily in the walking. This only happens to be manner that works for me, to get out there and out of myself. It’s a perspective where I exist as a pixel, part of a world existing in exponential gigapixels. Walking is where I am most like myself, or perhaps the version of me I most like.


If you haven’t done it for awhile, I recommend doing an inventory, sharpening up that resumé even with no future job changes in your future. Write down your strengths, as if you’re interviewing for the life of your dreams. Then, when you discover, and you might, your best asset, your biggest strength is as basic and unexciting as walking, embrace every aspect of your ordinariness. And for all that matters, please don't compare your strength to that of some other human that has some seemingly extraordinary attribute. Just don't. Embrace your strength, or strengths if you're so privileged, and when you're ready, go and fill this world with the beautiful pixel that is you. And if you end up walking where I walk, please say "Hello." I'd love to hear about how basic your most magnificent strength might be.


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