Saturday, March 15, 2008

rhythm number one: the rhythm of walking

Along with our heartbeat and our breathing, it's the most basic rhythm we have. The rhythm of walking. Ages ago our ancestors traipsed out of Africa and populated most of this planet (for better or for worse) on foot, a step at a time.

Up as far as the Arctic Circle, out across Asia, south to Australia, over the Bering land bridge and all the way down to the tip of Tierra del Fuego. (As I write this I think of that urge so many of share to keep on going beyond Santiago to Finisterre, where we finally feel there is nowhere left to go.) Walking defines us. We are the creature who goes on two legs in the afternoon, and the agreed-on signs that we have joined the human club are our first steps and our first words.

Yet because of the life we live today, many of us have lost, or have hardly ever known, the rhythm of walking. City life disrupts natural rhythms and imposes unnatural ones. We navigate crowded sidewalks, stop and go at traffic lights, pop into and out of buildings, vehicles and elevators, bounce and jerk around on our feet like ball bearings in a life-sized pinball game. How many of us have exercised our great human legacy - of waking and walking, and then waking and walking again, and so on day by day in the direction of the horizon till we get to wherever it is our feet want to carry us?

One of the beauties of the Camino is that it offers us the chance to find the rhythm of our walk (for each of us has our own), and the pace that is right for us, and then to live by that rhythm of step by step day in and day out for a few precious weeks.

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