Mishap brings resident New World View
By Betty Reid Soskin
Several weeks ago the simple act of yanking on a stubborn weed with
my body in the wrong position created a new window on the world. It brought
on muscle spasms the likes of which can only be compared to the legendary
pain of childbirth. I kid you not. It was a screamer!
After a few every-other-day visits to a great chiropractor, things have
returned to a relative "normal," but with a new twist (shouldn't even
say the word!). Vertebrae kept slipping back into painful nonalignment
until I began to follow the daily recommended routine of "walking." Yes,
walking. This was going to be a challenge for one whose only regular exercise
was climbing in and out of my little station wagon.
Then I thought of "Granny D" (New Hampshire's Doris Haddock), the 89-year-old
elder who is walking across the USA at the rate of 10 miles a day in order
to bring attention to the need for campaign reform legislation. This,
despite chronic arthritis and emphysema plus the general hazards of the
aging process. I could do this, right? And would you believe that I'm
now up to 4 miles a day?
Walking has opened up an entirely new world for me. I take the path created
for cyclists and walkers that is nestled under the BART tracks. It is
quiet, travels along a small creek, looks into backyards, and is guaranteed
to hold folks who take the time to greet one another with a smile as we
wend our hapless way. There are balance beams, places to do push ups,
to chin yourself, to try the bars, and even a wide space where one is
apt to find neighbors practicing tai chi, together in silence -- haven't
joined them yet -- but . . .
Best of all is that I'm having the feeling that the world I'm seeing
from my new perspective is one that I haven't visited since childhood.
It is the magical world of children. I seem to be tapping into things
long forgotten; things not visible at 50 miles an hour, or even 25. Butterflies
on wild anise, snails inching their way across leaves; an earthworm or
two making their way through a muddy place beside the path; a bird bathing
in the spray of a garden sprinkler. I've seen wildflowers and weeds I
remember and loved at one time -- the ones that you pulled out and made
into whistles; remember? I've seen cattails and fruit trees heavy with
fruit. And each day there is something new, now that I'm aware of what
I'm looking for.
And what goes on in one's head on the long walk -- remembering a friend
of ours, from India and from the physics department at the university.
I remember him speaking once, at dinner, about his country's practice
of having the sons of the aristocracy spend one year of life (usually
at the end of formal education) walking the country with a begging bowl.
The culture demanded it of each. Perhaps it was Buddhism.
The thought occurred to me that the world, as seen from the perspective
of "tiny print" is lost to us now. How one sees it from a car window is
quite a different world. It is easy to understand how abstract we all
become when viewed from a jet at 50,000 foot; all lines and zones and
"targets" and "collateral damage". A walker could never see humanity in
those terms, I think. But it gives some insight into just how easily our
fighters can drop their devastating bombs from such distances, doesn't
Not sure where I'm going with this, but I find that the path along that
seemingly dormant creekbed has led me to wish that a part of all military
training might include "The Walk." Maybe we would be able to restore some
of our humanity, and regain some of the innocence born of humility that
the Buddhists have encouraged through this simple practice. And I'm wondering
if the practice is still a part of their culture, or if it has disappeared
in the process of becoming westernized? What a pity that would be. Find
myself wondering if Ms. Haddock is making the same discovery as she wends
her way across Arkansas toward Washington, D.C.? Maybe she was already
aware of what is a precious rediscovery for me. Perhaps this is the underlying
motivation for living out this "impossible dream" of attempting to change
the course of history by her singular act of heroism.
Tennyrate, I seem to have developed a new world view. Wonder if the designers
of that lovely path were aware of just how meaningful it might be to those
who choose to slow the planet down a bit, move back into time and to re-enter
the magical world of children.
Archived October 1999
Run dates: 1999-08-01 - 1999-09-01