I have a suspicion that walking is better for the soul than it is for the body. I want to believe that being outside, striding along, can help to heal just about anything that ails us metaphysically, emotionally or mentally. I will be walking a lot this week and next for a variety of reasons; mostly I'm hoping my suspicions are correct.
My Dad is a famous walker; he goes for miles in the woods in search of game in any type of weather, even now, at 72. I remember our old neighbour Tony telling me I was a "high stepper," just like my Dad, after he watched me walk across the lawns that separated our properties in New Hamburg. I have an especially favourite memory of walking through the food court at Eaton's Centre when I was about 18. A bit oblivious to the crowds, I was wandering around trying to find a good place to eat. As I walked past two men sitting at a table, I overheard one guy murmur to another, "Mmm, mm, check her ass," and realized with some surprise that he was talking about me. "Yeah," said his companion, "and I like the way she walk." Embarrassed and a little flattered, I became so self-conscious about my walk I could barely stagger out of the food court.
But I digress.
A few nights ago, Neko and I sallied forth into the frigid night air for some soul-cleansing. I was grumpy and she was restless. There was only a sliver of moon to light our way, although the stars were brilliant. I disdain the use of flashlights; they wreck the mood of walking through the woods in semi-darkness. You can't feel close to nature or fully at peace with the night when you're waving an artificial beam of light around in front of you. Neko is only a semi-reliable guide; she likes to veer off the path and into various snowbanks, which is not helpful when you're counting on her to lead the way and end up thigh-deep in snow.
The darkness was ever-so-slightly creepy, and the night was very still. Have you noticed how many different types of silences there are? The silence of an empty house, the silence when you drive your car wtih the radio off, the silence of the fields, forest or waterfront. Night-time silences seem more profound than any of these, somehow. But you can be still inside when there is silence blanketing you from every side, especially when that silence is coated in darkness.
Even with a hundred pounds of frolicking dog with me - a furry blur several paces ahead, a wet nose against my knee - I felt deliciously alone without being lonely. As we walked down the cottage lane that flanks the lake, we came upon a lone globe lantern, lit at the end of a driveway. The cottage was deserted; no footprints or tire tracks led to it, so I don't know why the light blazed out so stubbornly. I'd never seen it on before and I haven't seen it on since. It made me think of Lantern Waste in the Narnia books - a guidepost, an unexpected beacon, lighting the way briefly before the darkness swallowed me up again.