When the quarantine began back in March, I began walking in one of the many forest preserves we have near our home. We are lucky to have many nature preserves that our county sets aside to take care of nature in a very unnatural suburban area, especially when the housing boom began in the late eighties/early nineties.
I would drive by these places all of the time over the past 25 years and think how pretty they were; some of them I would walk in with my friends when my daughters were small and were riding in strollers. But since everything closed up here in quarantine, the preserves were my sanctuaries to get out of the house and explore.
Around my 50th birthday, I decided to set a goal for myself: I wanted to visit the majority, if not all, of the forest preserves in the Chicago and Milwaukee areas during my 50th year.
At first, it was just a challenge to myself (and my husband) to get out of the house and explore new places, maybe lose a little weight, and get into shape. But as the weeks turned into months, it turned into something more.
It saved my life.
It was a way for me to find solace, to cry alone, to look up at the sky and talk to God, to my departed relatives, to the birds and creatures along the trails. Every time I return home from one of our walks, I feel as if I’ve been on a vacation. Like I’ve traveled to a faraway land, light years away from every single terrible thing we are absorbing currently.
Getting out on those trails isn’t always easy. Some days, it takes everything I’ve got to put one foot in front of the other. I shuffle to the bathroom, I shuffle to the coffee maker, I shuffle to the closet, I shuffle to put my shoes on. Every day feels the same as the one before it. It’s as though I am wading through gelatin. Trying to get to the next day, and the day after that, and so on.
Then I get out there. I smell pine, see a flower, hear a cardinal, and feel the Earth sigh around me. I hear another person say good morning as they pass by and I wonder if I am the first person they’ve said hello to that day. Is it the first time they’ve heard their own voice that morning? Are they as happy to see another human being as I am?
Saint Augustine once said “solvitur ambulando.” Translated to mean, “it is solved by walking.”
Since the middle of March, I’ve walked over 50 miles. I have left the woods feeling like I’d had hours of therapy without having to pay a single dollar out of my pocket save for the gas money it took to get me there.
And I have hope.
That I’ll be able to get up and get through another long day. That today will be better than yesterday. And even if it isn’t, I know that I will have that walk to cry and talk and feel like I’ve taken a break from my life for a short while before I do it all over again.