I live in a neighbourhood of walkers. We see one another at the park, at the Melville Koppies, or on the streets. Some power walk, like me, getting in their daily steps, others more meditatively. No matter which way we walk, solo, in groups, or with dogs, we all appreciate the same things.
Wide open spaces. Freedom. Each other.
But now with a PANDEMIC around us, walking is not so simple. In Johannesburg, our walks have taken on new meaning. The parks are closed, as are the Koppies.
Which leaves us with the streets. Between 6 am and 9 am. Only.
I don’t mind the streets. I don’t really mind where I walk, urban or rural, as long as I can walk. Which is what I thought about this morning. That I would like to walk and just keep walking. No set route, no definite direction (well, Cape Town would be good, my boyfriend is there) and no time restraints.
Like the book, ‘The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.’ It’s about an old man who walks to mail a letter and just keeps going. 87 days later, he reaches his destination. He goes on a journey he didn’t know he needed, one that brought great pain, but ultimately, healing. It’s written by Rachel Joyce and it’s an excellent read.
Or the fantastic, fabulous and sexy American author, Cheryl Strayed. How she hiked 1100 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail totally unprepared, at a time in her life when she was lost and sad and also, NOT A HIKER. Her book ‘Wild’ is one of my all time favourites.
In a different life, I would love to be like Cheryl. I would love to pick up a backpack, a tent, moisturiser, herbs to put in my boots, a PORTER and go. But I think I’ve missed that boat. I’m 58, nearly 59.
I don’t like camping.
I always get lost.
And there’s a global pandemic.
I’ve walked for years. My dad was a walker too. He used to lace up his shoes, fetch his hat and keys and say: ‘Bye, I’m going for a walk.’
He never had a step counter; he walked for the love of it.
But I think he also walked to get away from my mom.
I’ve done the same thing. Walked to get away. To clear my head. To think about choices. To reflect on mistakes. Walking has been about coffee and cake, good conversations, sunrises and moonrises, the ocean and forests, beginnings and endings.
And, even when I haven’t known it, walking has been about direction.
When I walk now, Stage Four Lockdown, I think of the direction I want my life to take. More precisely, I think of the direction that my life is going to take.
Except, I have no idea.
Because nobody has any idea what is going to happen or what kind of world we are going to find ourselves in.
Right now, the only constant is walking. And walking in lockdown does bring beauty. The birds. A bit of new graffiti. The colour of the sky. Even finding a lucky bean.
But it brings a lot of sadness too. The strict rules. Where we can and cannot go. The eerie emptiness of the streets. All the ‘Closed for Business’ signs. And where are the broom sellers and the basket sellers?
Where are the homeless?
What happened to everyone?
What happens to us?
Walking is usually where I find answers.
I haven’t found them this time round. Because, I don’t think there are any.
But every morning at 6 am I am going to brush my teeth and lace up my shoes. Put on my sunblock. Fill my water bottle. Send a message to Cape Town to say good morning. Pick up my hat and my keys.
And my mask.
I am going to do my daily walks. And I am going to keep doing them.
Until I find the right direction.
** Pic – Cheryl Strayed, Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, 1995