Posted by: Kara Luker | November 2, 2010

A journey to savor

Angels whisper to a man when he goes for a walk.  ~Raymond Inmon

Some people were made to run. I love their energetic enthusiasm and sometimes think I would like to be a runner. But I was made to walk. It is a time of unsurpassed peace when all the parts of me come together in perfect unity. Nature, solitude, God, movement, combined in a soothing rhythm. My arms swing forward and back, catching my eye before leaving my sight and arriving again. My feet meet the surface, press forward, and leave, translating texture to sound over and over in a thousand variations, as familiar and unique as a fingerprint.

I wander through my neighborhood, planting my face in roses to find the sweetest one, sometimes small and hidden. I say hi to neighbors I don’t really know and pet their happy dogs. I slow my pace to see sidewalk chalk creations and smile warmly, enjoying childhood for a moment. I hold my favorite water bottle, the one I save for walking, and listen to the water gently sloshing around.

I round the corner and head down the hill that begs for bike rides. I can almost feel the rush of wind on my face. I pass the house with the shiny white fence and the giant wind chimes hanging proudly from the second story. I look on the side of the road for the dandelions I will pick for my turtles on the way home.

At the end of this road is my trail. I have no idea where it starts but I know where it ends. Mostly I go to the bridge that crosses the riverbed and turn to head home. But today, when I set out, I know I will take it all the way. There are days that call for a journey, not a walk, and it is one of those days.  I feel glad.

When I step onto the trail, I breathe deeply and take it in. People ride by on bikes. It is Sunday so many are out, although not so many as in summer. Some go by in great herds, stampeding with speed and force. Some travel in leisure with dogs in their baskets or surfboards by their side. Recumbent bikes spin by with colorful flags trailing joyfully like kites. A man with a pink mohawk atop his helmet comes my way; one in a pumpkin t-shirt heads the other way. It is Halloween; I’d forgotten. Fragments of conversations fly loudly above the whirring of the wheels, leaving the context unknown, the characters only partly revealed.

Runners pass me by. Runners with iPods. Runners with kids. Runners with dogs. Walkers are out too, mostly with friends, engaged in discussion. The bikers and runners and walkers and I, we exchange smiles and hellos because we share this path, this day.

There are homeless people who share this day too. I hear movement in the darkness under the bridge. I walk by two grown people, dirty and drunk. I smile but feel sad. A woman is pushing a shopping cart, her belongings neatly organized. Her feet are swollen, her face is kind. She looks to be on a great pilgrimage, plodding along slowly and surely. I want to know her.

Out here, there is no striving to sort my thoughts. Some rise to the surface, some fall. Each will find its perfect place as I move and listen. My senses are full, my heart is open. I pray but not like other times. It is easy, unforced.

I hear a cheery voice with a slight Hispanic accent behind me saying, “only 3.1 miles.” He laughs with surprising brightness and hilarity, like a real santa, and repeats, “only 3.1 miles.” I take it in and savor it. A moment later, he flies by with two others. One loses his balances and slams into the fence three feet in front of me. His bike slides sideways and he is thrown on the pavement. He writhes in pain and groans, this middle-aged man with sparse white hair, lying beside the pieces of his sporty yellow sunglasses.

I stand helplessly by his head. His companions hear the commotion and turn around. I pause for a moment, like I do when I hit my funny bone, hoping it will pass. But he continues to squirm, spitting out mild obscenities and broken sentences. I want to pray and heal him in that moment or give magic balm like Lucy does in Narnia, but all I do is offer to call an ambulance. His friends are here, thank God, and he says, “Shit Jim it hurts. My hip it hurts.” I look worried. The man with the jolly laugh looks up with a smile and says, “these things happen.” I swear he is an angel.

Others have also stopped to help, this community we are, but we all just stand there looking on. The man finally gets to his feet through gritted teeth. He nearly topples but manages to stay upright by leaning against his friend and the fence. I offer again to call someone, but I know I’m not needed. His friends have it under control. I walk away and pray.

I cross the bridge, the one with the wooden slats that sometimes rock under the weight of bikes. Thu-thump-thu-thump-thu-thump. I love the sound. But today the wood must have expanded because it is tight and quiet. I get to the other side where the trail picks up, the part with the dirt on the side, where I add my footprints to countless others. I move on, listening to the birds, gaining distance, anticipating the rest of my journey.

I hear the man with the jolly laugh. I look up to see the roundish, brown form in shiny black cycling clothes on a bike beside me. He slows to thank me for my kindness with a warmth I could drink. He is alone. I ask if the man is okay. He assures me that he is. I am fascinated by this angel, and want to know him. He continues on.

I notice the water in the channel getting deeper and my excitement grows. At last, I glimpse what I have been waiting for – waves of the brightest white tumbling forward. In a few minutes, I find myself on the soft sand, before the sea I love. I walk close to the shore and breathe deeply. Everything is sparkling. The wind is wet. My thoughts grow quiet and all is well with my soul.

I watch the surfers with admiration. I’m amazed at their ease. I’ve tried it, and it feels awkward and difficult. I watch the energetic people on the other side of the channel, playing with dogs who all seem to love the water. I watch the way the ocean moves and I see other people watching it. I look down the beach toward the pier and remember Cole walking all 7 miles barefoot, when he caught up with me one day for an impromptu adventure. I remember the day I made him ride bikes there with me, the terrible windy day his bike broke midway, and he had to ride 40 embarrassing blocks on my bike… with me, the boogie board, the backpack chair, the cooler, and the towels. I couldn’t stop laughing; he was not amused. I want him here this day.

I walk further down the beach, past the foursome playing volleyball, the lifeguard truck sitting in the sand, the two surfers showering the salt off their bodies and boards. I stand for several minutes in front of the water. I’m tempted to keep walking, as far as my legs will carry me, and call for a ride at the end. But part of my journey is the long walk home. So I turn around and head back, hungry and a little sore. The anticipation is gone and my thoughts are all sorted. The lively pathway now seems deserted. I walk quietly, wishing the miles away. I pass the woman with the shopping cart and say hi. She returns a gentle smile. I imagine myself walking slowly alongside her and sharing in her pilgrimage. But instead I press on and arrive home, my body spent and my journey complete.


  1. After having taken this walk with you while you were talking to me on the phone, I am glad to get to see the walk in more detail. Lovely lovely!

    • You’ve actually walked that trail with me many times, but usually we just pace endlessly around the backyard 🙂

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