I open the front door and pause on the threshold, reluctant to walk into the wall of heat radiating from the sidewalk. Can it really be this hot at 6:30 a.m.? My dogs pull eagerly at their leashes; they don’t care about the temperature.
On the horizon, a hazy sun is about to rise. The air, heavy with particulate matter, shatters the sun’s rays into a foggy glow. I can feel the beginnings of Santa Ana conditions — the dry breeze sucks the moisture from my skin and tangles the branches of the shade trees on Walnut Ave. The air smells of dust and lacks the motivation that usually comes with a refreshing, early morning walk.
Walking is both my exercise and meditation. I walk between three and five miles every day with my two dogs, Willy and Juno, unless it’s raining or extremely windy. For a large part of that walk, I practice being in the moment and surrender myself to the actual experience of walking.
My right foot swings forward and the heel strikes the pavement. I load the leg with my weight, simultaneously pushing off with my left foot. I’m aware of my spine and the weight of my head atop my neck.
We stride together for three blocks before the dogs pull me off course to sniff enthusiastically at the grass verge. And this is how we walk along, alternately striding with awareness and then being pulled off-center.
This morning as I walked, it occurred to me that this daily activity is a metaphor for life. If there are obstacles in my way, I must stop or navigate around them. If I am pulled off-center by a force that I can’t control (the dogs), I need to pause, recollect and carry on.
Some days I am distracted by the world around me, and it’s harder to stay focused on my stride and the feel of my body; other days it’s easy to stay connected to the rhythmic movement of my arms and legs, and the walk is effortless and carefree.
Our route winds through a housing tract, then cuts up a steep hill behind a golf course. We always power-walk up this hill; the dogs gather their legs under them, ready for the quicker pace. I push myself, feeling the effort as my back leg propels my body forward and my front leg gathers the ground toward me. On the hilltop, I’m rewarded with a quintessential California view of chaparral and palm trees shaking their Methuselah fronds in the stiff breeze.
Now on level ground, I begin to stride again with awareness of my heel-strike and the roll onto the ball mound of my big toe. But Juno is hot and thirsty and pulls me off balance to get to a wet lawn, where she rolls onto her back, tongue lolling.
I laugh at her joy. She’s always in the moment. We should all enjoy the day as much as a hot dog rolling around in wet grass.
Image credit: Andy McLemore via Flickr (CC)