Over the last few weeks, I have been going for longer and longer walks. Four times a week, I’m crossing the five mile mark, which is long for me friends. It’s partly because I am training for a long walk (Yes, I have bravely put something on the calendar that I may have to cancel.)
But the other reason I keep going on long walks is to keep from losing my mind.
I am making a practice of listening to beautiful things when I walk:
or just the sound of the leaves rustling in the trees or crunching underneath my feet.
I am milking awe right now. When I find something beautiful, I pause and offer gratitude for it.
For dazzling colors.
For the smell of pine.
For a blue sky after weeks of gray.
For the sun on my face.
For bright red plumes on a brown songbird.
For the way a squirrel rips open a walnut shell.
I gather up leaves, bring them home and press them under stacks of books.
I set them on my prayer altar next to little bits of stone from mountain walking.
With every step, I remember that this earth is full of beauty, yes, even here in the fields and plains where you can’t see a mountain or a sea. I am still in a place of exquisite beauty.
I wonder at it as I watch a tiny snake wiggle its way across the trail.
I am in awe of how a deer can pass so close without my ever hearing his footsteps.
I am forcing myself out on these near daily pilgrimages in search of nature’s wonder, because every night I am newly tempted to forget how beautiful the world is.
When I see what is happening, when I see the sickness and death and violence, I am tempted to think that the world has lost its beauty. Or that it never really had any.
But no. It is still beautiful. And not just because the trees are changing colors, or because there are still a few forests and fields unspoiled by human hands.
It is also beautiful because there are people in it who are working to leave the world in better shape than when they found it. These holy caretakers are easy to miss, because they don’t seek to hold our gaze like the destroyers do.
But they are here. They are feeding people. They are sending books to kids in prison. They are working to free the prisoners. They are setting up tables full of diapers, formula and all kinds of gifts for those who need them. They are caring tirelessly for people who are sick or cut off from their families. They are telling the stories of those in poverty and then giving them a hand. They are creating communities who are taking care of each other.
There are people all over the world who are living with their hearts forward. ALL LOVE. They work mostly unseen, just as Jesus taught.
There is a prison abolitionist I follow, who keeps saying that instead of focusing on the outcome of this week, we should have our eyes on our plans for the good we want to create next.
This is a version of something I have heard many wise people say in the last several weeks and months.
If I only focus on what is easy to see, on what is happening, it is much harder to not live in fear, or despair. Or anger.
But if I think about what could be, and what I could create…if even for a few minutes a day, I take my eyes off of “the screen” and write about what I would most love to see birthed in this world, then I am ruled not by fear, but by love. And beauty.
Asking this question every day has been a powerful exercise for me:
What do I want to be a part of creating?
I know for sure that for me it involves walking.
And being outside.
What about you?
What do you want to be a part of creating?
When you look inside your heart, what is it that you would love to bring to the world that would make it better than when you found it?
One of my favorite verses is from Philippians 4 where we are told what to think about. When I say that I keep walking in order to not “lose my mind,” this is what I mean. When I am walking, it is easier for me to practice the discipline from these words:
whatever is true,
whatever is noble,
whatever is right,
whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely,
whatever is admirable–
if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–
think about such things.
Think about such things.
That’s my plan for this week.
Even though I am not on the Camino de Santiago right now, as I was last year around this time, I am still on pilgrimage.
Always searching for beauty, even in ashes.
PS. I was interviewed last month by my dear friend and client, Jane Reeves, for her podcast Ferocious Compassion. It was a breath of fresh air to get to chat with her about many of the things I find beautiful, especially about walking.