It’s been years since I last ran. During those years when I was a runner, I never figured out what I was running from or chasing. Mostly, I think, I just wanted to be alone.
Back then, I competed in many 10K races and collected a rainbow of colorful t-shirts. I also ran a few of the wackier competitions: The Cascade Runoff, The Hood to Coast Relay, and The Civil War Run. Now, illness, a fluttery heart, and sore feet conspire against me.
Running, though, was never about the races. I preferred the solitude of training runs close to home. The routes meandered through relatively vacant territory on the periphery of the Mt. Hood National Forest. The repetitive motion of heel and toe, heel and toe quieted my mind. I moved forward, propelled by my breathing. Life’s petty distractions disappeared behind me like the scenery, and were forgotten.
These days, as a walker, my distances and heart rates are modest. Of late, a peaceful stroll along the Port of Hood River’s waterfront satisfies my urge for exercise. Adjacent to the Columbia River, a path follows the shoreline from a hotel on the east side to The Hook at the west end.
Walking, like running, can also be a contemplative experience. The swing of my arms acts as a mantra of motion. Daydreams and judgments percolate. My mind filters the thoughts and life’s mix of fortunes coexist with my comfort for all of its uncertainty.
I amble next to the river. Following Labor Day weekend, local wildlife reclaimed the territory. Gulls rest on the rocks offshore. Ducks hurry through the flyway, a wing’s breadth above the glassy water. Farther out, a solitary heron perches on the post of an abandoned pier and rowers glide by. The sweep of their oars ruffles the surface. The boat’s wake folds back into the river’s mass and is gone. I swirl in a virtual eddy of composure along with my cancer and its beguiling shadow, mortality.
Then, when I reach the end of the waterfront path, I turn around and walk back to where I began.
7 thoughts on “Walking the Waterfront”
You can’t beat breathing in the air of the Columbia River as you amble along. Take care, John, and happy trails to you and your sister-in-law.
Soon Savvy will be able to walk with you, and you’ll be filled with even more gratitude for every moment you share.
So well expressed, John, yet again. Sounds like going on a meditation retreat.
I,too, am walking more, jogging less. When I can stay the voices in my head, I try to cultivate what I found in a quote by Henri Cartier Bresson and can only paraphrase. I am trying to see the world as it is at the moment that I see it. Very Zen, yes?
As a former runner, I totally relate to the tranquility of being alone with the breath and footfalls. I can’t run anymore, because I get horrible headaches afterwards. Walking is a perfect substitute. Lots of people prefer to ride bikes, but the feeling of moving along, using only your own body, invites contemplation. I’m so lucky to live near low mountains, too.