Long walks take up valuable time. I willingly surrender roughly a dozen hours of that time each week. And surrendering it, I still keep every moment of it, and ponder that very mystery as I go.
I never listen to music when I walk–or, at least, music that is not already in my mind. I have my phone with me in case of an emergency, but I keep the ringer off. I simply walk.
My preferred route is a six-mile loop that takes me past my childhood home. My parents purchased that house the year I was born. We lived there until I was seven. I then walk to the school I attended from kindergarten through to Thanksgiving of second grade. This and the walk home takes a little over two hours. I never get tired; I never get bored.
I take this particular walk on days when I am not working, and I do it precisely because I am unlikely to see anyone I know. This time enables me to reflect or simply to enjoy the infinite present as it passes through me. In this solitude, I feel most the presence of my childhood self, wondering each day during the walk home from school what I would grow up to be, what it would feel like to be a grown up, how good it would feel not to have an enforced bedtime.
And on work days, I walk to school whenever it isn’t raining. Sometimes I walk along the busy street that runs from my town into the town where I teach. When I have a letter to put in the mail, I walk through a quieter portion of my neighborhood and past the elementary school where I used to work. It brings me near the post office. Often, I hear a honk as one of my friends passes on the way to or from work. Sometimes, he or she will pull over for a brief exchange. On occasion, I will pass a group of students waiting for their bus. I’ll challenge them to see whether I will reach school before they do.
Riches shower me as I walk, though they find their way neither to my wallet nor my accounts. They outvalue the currency with which we buy and sell, and they return twice the worth of the time invested. No profound revelations come to me on my journeys. I merely notice where the puddles form and where the sidewalk buckles. The sky presents each day a different set of clouds, or sometimes no clouds but a different angle of light. The air blows softly but cold–or stiffly and damp. If I leave school late enough, I may smell pizza from the small shop as I pass.
Fortune has found me. I have inherited the wealth of noticing things that used to escape my attention. This has restored to me a truer understanding of life.