Friday, November 30, 2012


“Where there once was solidity to every step, 
there is suddenly a mysterious uncertainty…”

By Patrick J. Walsh

As I wander my usual way through the paths and paved roads of the park near my home, wondering at the struggles of others, I have new appreciation for the majesty and mechanics of even the briefest walk in the park.

So much goes into the simple act of walking. There is the coordination of mind and body, the movement of muscle and bone, the transfer of weight from limb to limb, and overall the delicate play of balance on the carriage — all meshed in the movement of each step, and in one step after another, cascading into the joyous mystery of motion.

© Patrick J. Walsh

They walk with me as I choose my steps; and I am 
more attentive to the best of all that is around me...

And my walk in turn gives rise to so many mysteries whose shape and structure are discernible only in relation to the orientation of my movements.

A rough texture, for example, cool to the touch: with the crunch of brittle leaves beneath my boots, it is likely the bark of a tree; with pavement beneath me, it is more likely the ragged edge of a stone at the side of the road, or gravel; on the grass close by the pond, the rough grasp of reeds that adorn the sodden expanse of the marshland.

Lately my time in the park has been interspersed with time spent in the company of those who, as the result of injury or illness, must cope with frailties that make it difficult to walk freely and easily.

For them, the process of placing one’s steps is an often treacherous exercise in limiting the yaw of each forward motion, from hip to foot, across the entire breadth of every stride. In such a state, a stroll along the uneven paths I ply from time to time in the woods around the park would be a vestibular nightmare.

In that context, a walk in the park would be anything but that which is implied by the colloquialism to which it lends its name.

Subject to the mercurial betrayal of balance on the merest whim of the landscape, or in reaction to the unanticipated distraction of animal or bird or aqua fauna, the diminished  control over one’s movement must seem an enigma beyond easy reckoning.

Where there once was solidity to every step, there is suddenly a mysterious uncertainty; where there was previously ease of movement, there is a heavy sensation of strangeness…

As I walk in the park, I am normally unaware of the mechanics of my own locomotion. Fascinated with the environment around me or taken up with some encounter of one sort or another with the creatures or setting of the place, I move along my way without thinking of the gift of ease of motion.

Even when I trek upward along some sloping trail in the woods, I am aware more of the effect that the grade has on the experience of whatever it is that I am seeing and hearing, rather than the degree of difficulty involved in the journey.

But today, I wonder at the struggles of others. They walk with me as I choose my steps; and I am more attentive to the best of all that is around me, that I might share it all with those who cannot experience it first-hand.

Maybe, in that effort, there is some miracle of transference that might make their difficulties less burdensome, and maybe set their sights on walks in realms more mystic than mysterious.

© Patrick J. Walsh


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