how do you nourish your body and soul?

Walking is how the body measures itself against the earth.

Rebecca Solnit
Blissful Hiker on day 100 of the Te Araroa, Mount Cook shyly peaking out behind the clouds.
Blissful Hiker on day 100 of the Te Araroa, Mount Cook shyly peaking out behind the clouds.

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.

Atop Beuzenberg Peak above Lake Tekapo in Canterbury, New Zealand.
Atop Beuzenberg Peak above Lake Tekapo in Canterbury, New Zealand.

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!

Published by alison young

Alison Young is the Blissful Hiker, a voice artist and sometime saunterer. 📣🐥👣🎒

Reader Comments

  1. Yes, I felt the first felt the freedom and exhilaration walking as a child delivering papers in an English neighbourhood. As I skipped along it was always source of wonderment that so many different lives were being led behind the curtains which I passed. As the years went by I felt the same exhilaration on a bicycle and when I started running. I often wondered why – was it the happy hormones secreted during these activities particularly when going aerobic. If so why wasn’t everybody doing it going aerobic? Clearly there are others that find similar pleasures in caving, or gardening or painting. Is the same chemistry at work?
    No matter, I’m back to walking ultras, I feel like I rule the world as the miles go by – the smile doesn’t leave my face, the problems of the world get blown away by the wind!

  2. I love this description of your walking up the steps to the nursery school, and the feeling of being “in charge of your being.” I even have a picture of you in that very room, sitting high up on top of a bookcase. I share that feeling, but my experience was walking along the top of a stone wall before a rainstorm. It was very windy, and I had to keep my balance. No one told me to get down from the wall or come inside. I was “in charge of my being.” I think it was the first time I was aware that I was unique – only one of me. I think I must have been four years old. Thanks for jogging my memory.

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