walking, not thinking

Yesterday, I had every reason to not walk.

At 7 am, the dark still glowered outside. One jaunt to the mailbox for the newspaper left Danny shivering as he entered in, then briskly walking to the heater to stand in front of it. 32 degrees outside! What? This is Seattle, land of the mild autumns and milder winters.

(However, Danny likes to remind me every morning, as he reads the weather forecast for any town in Colorado: “Could be worse, honey. Breck is 13 degrees today and feels like 6.”)

I couldn’t find my running shoes. Where are the winter hats? Wait, wasn’t it just August?

And outside, the entire house was swathed in fog.

The living room beckoned with warmth and the chance to cuddle on the couch with Lu, drink coffee with Danny, and settle into the seated position.

But I stay seated too much of the day anyway, for this job, in my usual position. And the days are growing shorter. There will always be an excuse.

I slipped on my red converses, found a knitted hat, enveloped myself in soft fleece for the first time in months, and went out the door.

Five minutes later, I was here. In this fog. In the darkness. Walking.

By the time I hit the forest, the fog had started lifting and I started walking fast.

This isn’t a metaphor. I’m not trying to tell you about my life through some circuitous story of a walk in the woods.

I walked. That’s it.

(These lines from Molly at Remedial Eating, one of my favorite new online discoveries, have been ringing through my head lately:

“Hits rock, misses rot, but at the end of the day, my fingers still twitch, and yesterday’s mistakes feed tomorrow’s efforts.  I could get all metaphysical here, go woo-woo over journeys and destinations, but I’d rather talk stir-fry.

Cashew chicken, anyone?”)

Lately, as you may have noticed, I’ve been posting more often. Danny and I cook and talk and think about what to make for food that day. Somehow, whatever quiet story surrounds that daily meal has inspired me more than grand plans and elaborate recipes ever can. I’ve had years of talking about my internal perambulations. Mostly, these days, I want to talk about kabocha squash puree and grated kohlrabi with a Thai fish sauce dressing and fresh pumpkin pie. If I go days without writing — and working on a cookbook is good, hard work, but it rarely requires writing right now — then metaphors and elaborate stories tumble out. When I’m here every day, walking my way through the words, it feels more right.

So I walked.

By the time I reached the road, the fog had begun to lift. Blue skies emerged behind it.

And I swear, I don’t mean that as a metaphor either.

Yesterday was the day I decided to walk my way through the winter. Each winter, I fall into the torpor, the short days of weak light bringing me down. I promise myself I’ll walk or swim or do yoga later in the day, in the afternoon, after Lu goes to bed. And then I go days without moving or feeling the blood rush to my legs after a big hill. Everything feels like it’s collapsing into itself.

This year, I’m moving. Every time I walk — and not run, or train for a triathalon, or reach any kind of goal at all — I come home to a warm house with more energy than before, energy I can give to the two people I love most dearly. That energy fuels the food I make, the words I write, and the hours of playing I’m lucky enough to share with my daughter. It’s really not hard to see.

No more excuses. I need to move. There’s rain lashing at the windows right now and I’m about to go out for a long walk again.

38 comments on “walking, not thinking

  1. SummerEllen

    Here’s to walking through Winter with intent and observation! No better feeling than coming from a rain soaked, boarder line freezing walk into a warm, well loved home and the possibility of moments to come.

  2. wine out loud

  3. Anna

    Yes — that energy that comes from moving outside is so good. It is also so easy to forget about and ignore because it is cozy inside. Thanks for the reminder to keep getting outside.

    1. shauna

      Allison, I thought of you the entire time I was writing it. You inspired this change in me. Thank you.

  4. kendall

    this post is so beautiful in its simplicity. i loved reading it. i have a hard time in winter and spend most of it indoors in a hot yoga studio to avoid the cold (but also avoiding trees, leaves, beautiful foggy moments, and that feeling of coming back to the warmth and energy in the home). your pictures and words remind me that i need to make the outdoor time this year too. thanks for sharing and not attempting to make it any more or less than it is.

  5. Kathleen Ojo @Onward; Inward

    Thank you for this. I was supposed to run this morning, but opted to stay in bed instead, avoiding the cold and darkness. I’m not feeling too good about that decision, but I will recommit myself tomorrow. Thank you for reminding me that taking the easy route often makes things harder later on.

  6. Val

    just down the road from you in portland– i’ve been whining that the rains started a full month earlier this year. am studying osteoporosis in school right now and i squirm in class thinking about how my mom’s low bone density (of an 80 year old when she was 40) was the first of many clues of our family’s celiac– and how i didn’t discover my own until i was 38. the teacher keeps telling us “25-40, exercise, take your calcium, that’s your window:. and i want to shout that i did but i wasn’t absorbing properly and that it’s not fair –but i squirm instead. i have serious motivation to get out and pound the pavement and it is STILL SUCH A MAJOR challenge in the grey and rain. thanks for the extra encouragement…

  7. Kathy

    How is it that I always dread exercise but after I do it (if done correctly according to my disabilities-but that’s a whole ‘nother story) I feel so good? What is the deal with that? If I know I’m going to feel better having done it, why the reluctance to do it? Strange, but it holds true for a lot of people…

    1. Bethington

      Part of it is the effort involved, I’m sure. I’m not talking about the effort of moving, I enjoy that. It’s the effort of getting up early, of putting on my clothes, of taking an extra shower so I don’t stink afterward, and so on. I mean, I love cooking, and I’ll often cook myself a wonderful meal because I know it will taste good and will be worth the effort. But sometimes I’m tired and hungry and I just make myself a bowl of cereal because it’s immediate and doesn’t take any work.

  8. Wallie

    LOVE IT!!! Keep it up! I too, have commited myself as of late to moving more. This morning I opted to staying in bed instead of walking the dogs for an hour walk. They did get 30 minutes though. 😉

    Great job!!!! 😀

  9. Lynne

    Dear Shauna,
    What a great post. I am too focusing on moving more. I prefer the evenings, mornings do nothing for me. My husband looks at me weirdly every time I get into my fleece and hook the mutt into her training collar for a walk in the cool fall rain. But I’m loving it.
    Also, you’ve been quite a help to me in the last few months. I was diagnosed with Celiac in August and have welcomed your recipes and posts every week. You’re recent post about eggs prompted me to talk to my doctor about recent fatigue. Turns out that chocolate is now off the radar for me now, so keep posting great recipes like the pumpkin pie. I hate to miss dessert.
    Best wishes to you and yours,
    Lynne Davis

  10. Emily

    I needed to read this today. I’m all too familiar with intending to exercise during nap time, or in the evening, or or or, and then looking up five days later having done nothing. You’re encouraging and I’m going to keep trying!

  11. Mel in Mo

    I really miss the Northwest! Your pics are lovely! I am walking everyday with you this winter! I too, have to move!!

  12. Nicole

    Many years ago I made myself a promise to walk at least one mile every morning (15 minutes at a good clip). In Northern Michigan where the wind whips off the lake, that promise was often hard to keep. Most mornings I would find after one mile I wanted to keep going and would do three or maybe even five if I had nothing pressing back home.
    Your post reminded me of this and how much better I felt back then. I now live in Fairbanks where it is 8 below this morning, but I think I will re-start my one mile morning promise. The big question is…Who is going to break the news to the dogs who are all warm and snuggled in their beds?

  13. ZenHarmony

    I just started walking again yesterday, but because of RA in my hips, I’m using a treadmill to start. In the small town I live in currently, people drive 3 blocks to work, anyone walking is looked upon as a freak, and they allow the sidewalks to be overgrown with vegetation, but I am determined to not be stuck indoors all winter long… I will walk! I do so wish I had a beautiful little path to walk along, but I’ll keep that image in my mind during the mostly blustery days here! : )

  14. Heather

    I work from home and find it challenging some days to break from the routine of sitting behind my laptop. So, there are days when I run, and days that I just leave, mid day and walk for 10 km…with just my dog and my iPod. Walking is SO good for your body and your spirit! They say those who get out and walk amongst the trees increase their IQ’s 🙂
    Nothing more beautiful than a Pacific Northwest fall to go for a walk in xx

  15. Careless Camper

    Beautiful – and an excellent reminder for all of us on the wet foggy coast. I needed this metaphor (that you swear you weren’t intending) to remind me to walk out of my own fog. And…kohlrabi and thai fish sauce! Your site and posts have everything I need.

  16. Jo

    We’re bicycle commuting this winter as much as possible, riding our tandem bicycle with our 2-1/2 year old in the trailer behind. It’s four miles each way, with some pretty big hills, and it’s the only way two full time employees both taking grad classes are going to exercise! Our toddler eats his gluten-free cookies in his trailer and sings the Wheels on the Bus song. We couldn’t bike this summer because of horrible allergies, but winter? That’s our cup of tea! Well, until we get below 30, anyway.

  17. Laura

    Gosh, I needed motivation. I wish we were neighbors pushing each other to walk. Like you I have woods and trails by my house, super accessible, but I have been slacking really badly. Now my back is in so much pain from sitting all the time, why am I doing this to myself?

    Thanks for the kick in the butt, I am going to do it today!

  18. Brie

    Ditto to Laura – Thank you, Shauna, I needed the kick in the butt to get going. I wish I was neighbors with any of you – nobody in my neighborhood seems to walk for exercise at all. (I don’t understand that, but it’s true.) Three months into a gluten -free life and I’m finally having energy every day, after some healing and some ups and downs figuring out the diet. Now I’m ready to be fit as well as healthy!

  19. Chez Loulou

    Every time I head out into a dark winter morning to walk, often doubting that I should really go, craving coffee and feeling slightly grumpy because of it, I am so glad that I did. I come home feeling refreshed, inspired and invigorated.
    I love that you shared your photos and your thoughts with us on your morning walk.

  20. Donna Vieira

    I am challenged by this post. I love to be warm. And I love how I feel after I move, so think it’s time to re-start my engine, layer up and get out there. And thanks, Shauna, for letting us hear from you more often, we miss your voice when you’re not here.

  21. Gail

    Thank you for the reminder…so THIS is why a puppy has come into my life: to help me get through the dark days.

  22. Terry

    Let’s walk together in different locations each morning, shall we? I walk Monday through Friday at 7:00 here in Pasadena, CA because my friend waits at the corner for me and I don’t want to let either of us down. I walk in honor of my friend in a wheelchair who cannot. I walk because each day has something new to offer and I don’t want to miss it. It is the most simple beautiful thing and our bodies were designed to do it! Happy Walking!

  23. Vive

    Thank you, Shauna. I’ll walk with you. Last year my new year’s resolution was to make it a year of walking, but then my father got sick and work got crazy and we experienced the worst summer in Texas history and here I am, November, missing walking. But this morning you’ve inspired me to walk the two miles to my office. I’m off to get ready. Thank you.

  24. Bethington

    I am so jealous of your forest. I walk on the streets of a mid-western college town and in “parks” that are mere glorified lawns. I do probably get more sunshine, though. 🙂

  25. Judi

    Some of my favorite walks have taken place in the rain. The sound, I just love the sound of rain on my umbrella or parka.
    I really enjoyed reading this post.
    Thank you!

  26. Tara

    Oh, I’m so glad you’ve “found” Molly! She’s absolutely wonderful.

    When we weren’t eating our way through NYC this past weekend, we were walking. I’d forgotten how much walking is a big part of city life. And now my legs are itching to make it part of my life here.

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