Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Walker

I’ve seen her in all kinds of weather: hot, muggy August afternoons, frigid January evenings, crisp autumn days, gentle spring mornings. In the face of blazing midsummer sunshine, drizzling rain, or spitting snow, she’s out there trudging up and down Boonsboro Road and Rivermont Avenue, logging her miles on Lynchburg’s north side. She covers a lot of ground in her walks. I’ve spotted her from as far west as the Boonsboro Kroger and as far east as Riverside Park—a good three miles apart.

Whatever the conditions or the time of day, her demeanor is never changing, a steady determined pace paired to a face set in stoic concentration. She neither smiles nor grimaces. She doesn’t look about. She just focuses on the task at hand—her walking. I’ve never seen her pause or break stride. Her legs move with the steady rhythm of a metronome. Hers is no casual stroll. She walks with purpose and intent.

I know neither her name nor her story. I’m lousy at guessing ages but she has clearly seen a lot of winters. Her hair is slate gray, her face, wrinkled and weathered. Year round she boasts a healthy tan from her many hours in the open air. Her eyes are bright and clear.

But whatever her story is, there is a tale of pain hidden inside it. Because like a torpedoed ship that’s taking water, she lists to the port. Her head and shoulder have a pronounced leftward tilt. Is she a recovering stroke victim? Was she involved in some terrible accident? Does she suffer from a birth defect that left her body forever twisted? I don’t know.

Many are the times that I have thought of stopping my car in a quest for answers to my questions. I’d like to hear her story. But I’ve always deferred. When I spot her she seems invariably to be going opposite my direction. By the time I pulled over, parked the car, and crossed the street, she would be hundreds of feet behind me and drawing away at a steady rate. Besides, it’s really none of my business and she might just remind me of that fact. And who knows what pain might accompany telling such a tale? Some experiences in life are best left undisturbed, buried in the past.

Still, we all go about telling our stories, whether intentionally or unwittingly. And that includes this nameless walker. By her actions, her body language, the constancy of her walking, she has told me that she is not a woman to be imprisoned by the pains of the past. She is not just a defenseless victim of circumstances. She is disciplined. By her steady stride she has taken control. She is claiming responsibility for her own future health and vitality. She is silently proclaiming to the world that she will not be kept down by circumstances.

I have also noticed that the time of day when she walks varies. That suggests to me that she is living for more than her own health—that her life is filled with other things—things that demand her time and around which she has to plan in order to log her miles each day. And that suggest to me that this is a well-rounded soul. It’s amazing what we can learn from the example of just a solitary woman taking a walk.

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