Walking is how the body measures itself against the earth.Rebecca Solnit
I was asked earlier this week to participate in the Minnesota Women’s Press August “Body” issue by answering this question in 500 words or less, “How do you nourishes your body and soul?” Here’s a preview of my answer and I look forward to those of my fellow Minnesotan sisters!
There’s really no trail from Royal Hut to Stag Saddle. Instead, in typical Kiwi fashion, it’s a pick-your-way between orange markers on soggy, tussocky humps of grass, back and forth across a boulder-strewn stream, and straight up from one false summit to the next. The sun is hot in a bluebird sky and the route is steep. I’m glad I have hiking poles.
Yesterday, the trail got the best of me. I sat down to rest and immediately started crying, ready to quit and go home. Today is day 100 of a thru-hike of New Zealand. I put life on pause to walk this, a risk I was willing to take before my arthritic feet impeded my “full time pedestrian” status.
I’m known as the Blissful Hiker and one would assume it’s walking that nourishes my body and soul. That’s true, of course, but it’s only part of the story.
My earliest memory is of looking down at my feet in wonder as they moved me up to the back door of our church where my father was the minister. Up there, was nursery school! I can still see the dappled light on the sidewalk, roly-poly caterpillars in brown and black, my arms swinging, propelling me along. The moment is indelible because it was the first time I felt in charge of my being, drunk on the power of the simple act of moving myself forward with my legs.
That feeling has sustained me through the five plus decades of my life, not just physically, but in the mental and spiritual realms as well. I’ve walked in fields, forests and mountains all over the world, using ambulation as a way to work out problems, manage my emotions and spark creativity. Such a simple act, walking requires little equipment or skill. And I never walk very fast, finding that sauntering is the surest means of locating my blissful center.
Above the saddle, I kick up loose scree on a precipitous slope towards the summit of Beuzenberg Peak, rock shards tinkly underfoot. Plants like spiky hedgehogs cling close to the ground. The stunning aquamarine of Lake Tekapo comes into view below a glistening Mount Cook, wisps of clouds stuffed in its valleys.
I’m glad I didn’t quit yesterday when the going got tough. I relish the long walk that got me here, a journey of discovering what’s around me as well as what’s inside me. In this glorious moment of astounding vistas, I’m reminded that every step – cruisey or challenging, confident or uncertain, happy or sad – nourishes my body and soul.
I soak it all in for as long as I can before I head down to find a campsite and rest up for what tomorrow’s walk will bring.
How do you nourish your body and soul? Send me a line and let’s talk!