Marshall: The two-footed Bainbridge experience


Bainbridge Islander columnist Becky Fox Marshall writes this week about the new perspective that can be had by strolling through familiar places. Read her column below…

If you were to look up the word “inertia” in the dictionary, you would see my picture, followed by the definition as provided by physics: The tendency of a body to resist acceleration… of a body at rest to remain at rest.

And resist acceleration I did, at least for the last few years. Until the immovable object I had become met an irresistible force and the paradox of my paradigm was blown to bits. In other words, my doctor warned me I was eight weeks and one blood test from an official diagnosis of type II diabetes.

So I got up and and started walking.

Three months later I’m hooked. My blood work is all in the optimal range. But beyond dodging the diabetes bullet, I have benefited through the discovery of an entire world out there.

To be outside again is joy. We forget, or at least I had forgotten, the pleasure of feeling the breeze in my hair and on my skin. I walk in snow, wind, rain and – cross your fingers for more – sunshine. It’s not that I look forward to walking in the rain. I am not crazy. But walking in the rain offers its own set of sights and sounds – and the warm shower after the walk is an absolute spa treatment. The worst conditions to walk in? Chilly Hilly. It doesn’t matter what the weather is doing, because you’re so intent on not getting run over by flying spandex that you haven’t time to think about it. I had to walk with my elbows akimbo to ward them off.

But on a regular day, it’s a bit like a club out there – I am starting to recognize the same people on my 5-mile weekend “loop” route. Nearly everyone is courteous enough to offer some kind of acknowledgement – a wave or a smile or a greeting. Most of us are lost in our iPods, and focused on our breathing, and our gait. So the greeting is often a silent, mouthed hello. And the look in our eyes says – “You too, huh? Isn’t this fabulous? People might think this takes discipline. But we know it’s really a selfish act that we make a priority because it feels so great!”

There have been days in my neighborhood where there’s barely room for cars on the road, clogged as it is with dogs and owners, families and bicycles, and people walking or jogging. Sorry cars.

I understand roads are made for cars, but there are two types of cars out there – the people who slow down and give you wide berth, and those who whiz past so fast and so close that you pray you won’t trip and fall under those wheels. And generally speaking, it’s the nicest cars that are driven by the people least likely to acknowledge the joggers/walkers with a smile or nod. (Yes, there are exceptions, so if you drive a nice car and you’re a nice person, that’s cool – you don’t have to send an angry email. Instead, keep leading by example and prove me wrong!)

Beyond the weather, the drivers and the other people out there, the greatest delight of all is seeing things you can only see from the ground, at a certain speed. Take today, for example.

First, there was an otter. I’m not a fan of them under my house, but it was entertaining to see one scurrying along the beach. Overhead, two eagles settled in a giant cedar tree, setting off a cacophony of crows and seagulls. You can’t get that from a car.
Down the road, someone (or maybe raccoons – some creature with an opposable thumb at any rate) had decorated a bush with dozens of brightly colored, plastic Easter Eggs. On the grass in front of the tree they had posed two plastic play Tyrannosaurus rexes (I might be wrong on the actual variety, I am no dinosaur expert) proudly showing off newly hatched baby t-rexes. Now this display took some time, and some thought, and you’d never catch the full humor if you were speeding by in a car, or even a bicycle.

I get to see beautiful gardens, and learn from their labors. I know where water gathers, and what spring wildflowers come along first. I know where there is clearly some creature dead on the beach, although I can only smell it. The smell of the water, the feel of a morning mist, and the colors of wetland and forest – these you can sense only when you are in nature, and nature is right outside your door. It is an irresistible force.

“People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child — our own two eyes. All is a miracle.” – Thich Nhat Hanh, Vietnamese-born Buddhist monk, teacher, author, and peace and social justice activist who helped originate the “Engaged Buddhism” movement.

-Becky Fox Marshall