Walking

Our home is situated on a lot that is a little more than a half acre.We are near the top of a hill, and the land around our home is anything but level. Our lot is typical for our subdivision, which was designed to have plenty of open space between buildings. Some of the homes in our neighborhood have manicured lawns with automatic sprinkler systems and careful landscaping. Other homes allow most or all of the lots around their homes to remain natural with grasses growing tall in the summertime. Our home is somewhere in the middle of all of this. We have lots of open space and I keep it mowed during the summer. Mowing is a chore. While the majority of the folks in our neighborhood ride around on their lawn mowers, I have chosen to use a walk-behind mower for the 25 years that we have lived here. It is a good workout going up and down the hill with the mower. Most summers aren’t too bad, however. The grass grows quickly during the late spring and there are weeks when mowing once a week doesn’t seem to be often enough. Then, around the end of June, the rains slow and the heat increase and the grass slows its rate. I can let it go two or more weeks between mowing right now.

As a person who has struggled with being overweight all of my adult life, I appreciate the exercise that mowing our lawn gives me. I complain about it from time to time, but I am grateful that I have had the health and energy to be able to do that task for myself. I wear a watch that keeps track of the distance I walk and mowing our lawn is close to three miles of walking.

We have been walking as our primary exercise this year. We decided to make it a priority to take at least a half hour to walk together every day and we kept that commitment even during the final, very busy weeks, of our work at the church. Now that we are officially retired, we are able to walk more on many days. Rapid City is a good place to walk. One of the lasting legacies of the 1972 flood is a system of interconnected parks along the creek that runs through town. There are paved walkways that stretch from one end of town to the other and offer cool places alongside the creek with plenty of shade for summer walking. The trails connect to three parks that have less developed trails for more extensive walking. One park features a small reservoir that is usually filled with geese.

The main hiking trails have been seeing a lot of use during this time of pandemic. They provide space for people to get outdoors and maintain physical distance. We see a lot more families riding bikes on the trails this summer. Still, there is room for us to enjoy being outdoors and feel safe with our distance from others.

There are several trails within the city that we enjoy walking that get us out and away from others. When the weather is good, we hike in Skyline Wilderness Park or some of the trails around M hill. We have several loops that give us a couple of miles of walking without being too strenuous.

One of the places that we enjoy walking is at Terra Sancta Retreat Center. The Roman Catholic Facility features two loops of hiking trails that total about 1.5 miles. They are connected to a parking lot by a paved Via Dolorosa with stations of the cross displayed on granite slabs. The trails are on a wooded hillside that faces East, so it is shaded in the evening. Most of the time we have the trails to ourselves. If we do encounter another hiker or small group, all of the walkers are very respectful of the solitude that the setting offer and we quickly pass.

Sometimes when we walk we talk. It seems that we always have plenty to talk about. Sometimes we just walk in silence, listening to the natural sounds around us and allowing our minds to wander.

Last evening we were walking at Terra Sancta and I was feeling a little tired, having mowed the lawn in the morning. I could feel a bit of stiffness as we walked along. Still, it felt really good to simply be able to walk. Walking is an exercise in which you can control your pace. If the hill is steep and you are a bit short of breath, you can simply slow down, shorten your stride and allow your body to recover. When the terrain is flat, you can speed up.

As we walked, I remembered that we just passed the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Act was widely supported as the legislation made its way through congress. There were only 9 “no” votes in the senate and it passed the house by a unanimous voice vote. Strangely, much of the opposition to the act came from religious groups, including evangelical churches, who opposed governmental regulation of churches. It was strange that religious institutions would argue in favor of discrimination. Our church, the United Church of Christ, however, strongly backed the act and one of our ministers, Harold Wilke, a tireless advocate for persons with disabilities, was present at the signing. After the act was signed, President Bush turned and handed the pen to Rev. Wilke. Having no arms, Wilke slipped his foot out of his shoe and accepted the pen with his foot.

Rev. Wilke was just one of the many persons who taught me that we do well to define others and ourselves in terms of our abilities not our disabilities. With no arms, Rev. Wilke could walk, but there are others who need wheelchairs or walkers or canes or other assistive devices for mobility. Being able to walk gives us access to trails and locations that are not accessible to those who use such devices. Certainly we do not want our churches to be places that are filled with barriers that prevent persons with disabilities from full participation.

As another friend likes to say, we who can walk are only “temporarily abled.” Our bodies are frail and we all will experience disability. So we gain great pleasure from going for walks and enjoying the ability to travel around under our own strength. It is a blessing that will not be ours forever. For now, it is good to savor the joy.

Copyright (c) 2020 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!