Fixing to Walk. Care to Come Along?

Elizabeth MarroWalking: Dispatches From The Journey18 Comments

“But the beauty is in the walking — we are betrayed by destinations.”
― Gwyn Thomas

These shoes were made for walking. It's time to break them in.

These shoes were made for walking. It’s time to break them in.

A palm reader once told me I was one of those people who didn’t need to travel to learn about life. I was one of those people, she said, who understood that all life contains could be encountered in her own backyard.

This is a good thing because, although movement and travel have been part of my life, home has been the bigger part, especially since I began working out of my house 12 years ago. The more I am here, the more I am here, is how it seems to go.

In my last blog post, though, I outed myself as a yearning walker. A pilgrim in search of a journey that was not just metaphorical.

I wrote that a woman sometimes “needs to let in the wind, rain, sun, and to feel the blisters on her feet harden. She needs to let her body lead her sometimes and to trust it no matter her age.”

It appears that I am not alone. Since writing that post, I have been involved in conversations on email and Facebook with other women who travel hundreds of miles by foot whenever they can or who have been thinking a long time about starting out on a pilgrimage. Each woman has her own reasons, her own goal. Some have called themselves “wanderers” rather than walkers.

The common thread seems to be that we all see the difference between a direct encounter with our physical world and rolling through it in a car or flying over it. Some of us know a certain restlessness that sharpens in the wake of passing time. Some of us want to sink into the world instead of our smart phones or our busy-ness and just see what happens. One writer, not a walker, said something the other night that resonates with me still: “I want to live in my story. I’ll know then what there is to write, if anything.”


This has been a significant year in my life journey. Good news came in the form of a book deal. A new novel is starting to emerge. This is the work I’ve wanted to do ever since I was a kid. To do it right requires as much planning and being present as preparing for and starting any kind of extended journey by foot. Much is going on with family and friends I hold dear. On top of that, my body delivered a bruising reminder during the holidays that it can limit my plans, or at least my ability to execute them, at a moment’s notice. Ironically, I fell ill the very day that I bought my new walking shoes and am only now getting to wear them.

Like most folks, I have learned that I can’t always do it all or not all at once. So, this may not be the year I lace up my shoes and walk the entire California coast from Mexico to Oregon.

A walk of a lifetime.

A walk of a lifetime.

It can be the year, however, that I walk some of it. It can be the year that I ask more of my body and my mind than I did last year. I can walk wherever I happen to be and notice people, smells, colors. I can set goals for distance and miles walked.

I’m aiming for 800 miles or about 15 miles a week by foot. I don’t know where I’ll walk, only that I will walk. I will leave the car at home more often and use my feet to get to places I need to be. I will walk in places I know and places I’ve never been, starting here in my own city. When I walk, I will not listen to music or talk on the telephone. I will look, feel, think, seek encounters. I will smile at strangers. I will open myself up to possibility. I will take one step at a time and maybe, at some point, it will become clear to me why I am walking and where I am going.

Selfishly, I know that reading what others can teach me about their own desire to feed body, soul, mind, or art by walking will help me get out the door on those days when it is hard to imagine leaving my desk. Maybe you have a long-held dream to walk the Camino de Santiago, or to walk from Maine to Washington along the border with Canada. Maybe you are walking that walk right now. Maybe you take people on walking tours for a living. Maybe you are a photographer who ventures by foot to nearby or hard-to-reach places to bring back images that tell a story. Maybe you are one of those people who know how to notice the the world in the course of an amble from your door to your mailbox.

With this post, I am creating space on my blog for dispatches from the journey, not just mine but for anyone with a story or thoughts to share about your journey. Progress. Things learned. The planning process. A poem. Discoveries. Meditations. The flowers, animals, people you encounter along the way. Books that inspired you, guided you.

I am going to look for you and link to your posts or reblog them here. I also invite you to get in touch, let me know about your walking journey and write a post here or send me a link to a post from your own blog and I will happily reblog. If you are a photographer and want to share the sights you captured along the way with more folks, let’s connect. This invitation goes out to men, women, old, and young. Anyone with two feet, a walk or desire to undertake one, and a desire to share the journey.

At least once a month, I will post in the new section “Walkers: Dispatches from the Journey.” Hope to catch you along the way.

P.S. Happy New Year! Whatever your hopes and intentions for 2015, may you find them in the months ahead.

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Elizabeth Marro

Elizabeth Marro is the author of the novel, Casualties, the story of a defense executive who loses her son just when she thought he was safely home from war. Now, she must face the painful truth about her past, her choices, the war, and her son.

18 Comments on “Fixing to Walk. Care to Come Along?”

  1. Your touching my heart here. “A pilgrim in search of a journey” resonated on a visceral level with me. I sometimes wish I was a lot less ‘responsible’ because I feel like running away!

    1. Been there, Karyn. Walking out is not the same as running away but it can maybe feed the soul in ways that it needs? Looking forward to staying connected! Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  2. i have been drawn to this kind of journey for some time now, and the desire to walk waxes and wanes as life goes on, but never fully leaves me. i like the way you have found to incorporate walking into your life and i’m happy you don’t feel you have to do it all, or all at once. best of luck with your new book adventure and i look forward to following you on your journey. i’ll keep you posted on mine as well. best, beth

    1. Yes, Beth! Let’s keep each other up to date on where our feet lead us. I’m looking forward to the observations and quick snapshots you draw so cleverly with words as you make your own journey.

  3. Betsy my pulse quickens reading this! I am so in tune with your desire and intentions to walk and walk some more, to push beyond your own limits and expectations and see what’s out there. And yes, I want to come, too! You’ve almost inspired me to buy another FitBit, so we can log those 15 miles a week together!

    1. I don’t know what a FitBit is but I am glad you will be joining me in whatever way makes sense, Katrina. I have barely mastered my husband’s pedometer (a gift I gave him a couple of Christmases ago but have since re-gifted to myself). Looking forward to sharing the miles!

  4. Every other day, the little girl I sit with says, “see squirrels.” So we grab the key, my phone, our shoes and something to drink. She gets in the stroller and off we go. I think the total distance might be 2 blocks. First I go right, then left. If I’m watching where I’m going it’s a rather boring stroll. If I look where Bella is looking there are leaves, berries, bits and pieces of things her parents would probably rather she not touch. Sometimes we see squirrels chasing each other. I didn’t know when my children were young, part of the joy of parenting is to get down to their level and see the world from that vantage point. I like the idea of walking more. Alas, the Florida temperatures will be too hot before my shoes are broken in. Looking forward to seeing where you go.

  5. You have opened up a whole new adventure for me. It is interesting that my husband and I frequently walk and hike while on vacation but it always ends when we return home. I will lace up my old Nike’s and begin to explore my neighborhood, the hills I view out of my window daily and a simple walk on the beach – only 20 minutes away. Congratulations on your book deal and your journey.

  6. Isn’t it wonderful when friends thousands of miles apart seem to be following the same path? Caroline and I have taken up our walking shoes again – we were keen walkers in our youth – and she has spurred me on to walk every day, just to get a little fitter, and to take an hour away from my screen. I am aiming to walk 3 miles each day, and so far its going to plan. In fact I already have a blog post in draft about walking, and getting outside, which echoes many of the points you highlight. The last few days I have walked around our relatively small village, where we have lived for 20 years, and already I have found places that I have never been before. Yesterday I set out under a grey sky, and got caught in a heavy downpour (cold too as its midwinter here), but the beauty of it was that the rain had kept everyone else indoors, and despite the muddy tracks sucking at my boots, a few moments spent under the cover of the trees in a nearby wood shared with a dozen winter birds sheltering from the rain, did not just make me smile, but made me laugh out loud – had the mud not been so deep I may well have danced in the rain! More on that theme in my next post! Thanks for sharing Betsy, I am sure we will meet on the road during our trip to California later this year!

      1. Dear Betsy,

        First, huge congratulations on the book deal! I look forward to seeing Casualties in print and attending your book signing! This business is not easy, and your perseverance and writing inspire me.

        This post made me reflect upon how much I love to walk. I never listen to music when I walk, but do find myself stopping a lot now with my iPhone to take pictures of all the beauty around me.

        My husband and I love to walk and living in LA now, we’ve discovered so much by going to places on foot rather than driving. In fact, on Friday we walked from a restaurant to a local bar, and if we had taken the car, we would not have stumbled upon a Tango hall where Greek dances were being taught. We skipped the cocktail and danced to Greek music till midnight. If we had driven between stops, we would never have come across that small space tucked away in the back of a small shopping lot. It was a delightful surprise.

        Today I took a new walk through the Tujunga pass. I saw some amazing murals along the LA river. I don’t think I’ll ever do a long one like you mention, but every day when I’m out with the wind, the squirrels, the sun on my face, I’m rejuvenated; these mini excursions prepare me for the long hours in front of my computer.

        Great post and congrats again!

        1. Thanks, Kimberly! What a great moment it must have been — going out for a walk and ending up dancing. Maybe I’ll get lucky that way too although the shoes will be all wrong…I also have my iPod touch handy for photos. We’ll see what I find. Mini-excursions are good. They are wonderful. And they do help prepare the body for some work in front of the computer.

  7. Congrats again on your book deal! And I’m walking too! Aiming for 10,000 steps a day (fitbit).

    Did you ever read Ladder of Years by Anne Tyler? I used to have a list of all the books I read where a woman just walked away. Hmmm… may have to dig that up.

    Good luck on your journey.

    1. I have read Ladder of Years and just about everything Anne Tyler ever wrote. I would love to see that list of books you mention just to see how many I’ve read. I’ve always been a bit obsessed by the woman-who-walks-away. I wonder if it is the kind of thing oldest children/daughters who tend to operate within the boundaries and take responsibility for solving the problems of others tend to fantasize about? My novel features a woman who flees and although her journey and the reason she launches upon it are different from the woman who steps out of her life, that notion was what I in fact started with.

      Thank you for checking in and for the luck. Good luck on your 10,000 steps a day. I’m finding that the journey is as much internal as external.

      1. Betsy, I look forward to reading your novel! I love Anne Tyler too. Although I haven’t found the list yet, I did find 3 other books with the notation “woman alone” > Up Island by Anne Rivers Siddons, An Unknown Woman by Alice Koller, and At Home in France by Ann Barry.

        You know I love this: “I wonder if it is the kind of thing oldest children/daughters who tend to operate within the boundaries and take responsibility for solving the problems of others tend to fantasize about?” : )

        Thanks also for the lovely comment you left at my blog. I’ve read it over at least three times but have not yet responded b/c I didn’t want to be in a hurry when I did. More soon. xo

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