Here on Iona, where it is often stated in promotional material that sheep outnumber people and cars, everyone walks. There is but a single road and upon that one walks to get to the ferry, get to the Abbey, get a cup a tea. It is both a means to a destination and a value in and of itself. By walking, I get in tune with my body. I am aware of what feels good, and what is creaking more than it used to. I become attuned to my overall health and well being: am I out of breath? Do I feel strong? Do I need to stop, slow down or speed up? Taking such stock of myself, I’m also more aware of others. Incredibly different than when driving within cars, when I pass someone on this solitary street, I am significantly aware of their presence, even when they are yet yards and yards beyond me. I sense them really; because I am removed from my insular vehicle, my soul feels the life of what is around me. So not only am I aware of others walking the road, but I hear the kerrx-kerrx of the Corn Crake nesting in the farmers’ fields. I hear the bleating cries of young sheep trying to find the warmth and milk of their momma’s. I feel the wind whipping about me and the moist mist accumulating on my face.
Because I can trust the undulation of my walking, I can also look about me without worrying about crashing (hopefully!). I watch the ferry crossing the Sound of Iona. I note the craggy height of Dun I. I look for the turquoise hues in the sea. And if I do happen to bump into another person during my perusals, it mandates human contact, and always elicits laughter and communication, despite language barriers.
That’s really it, I think. Walking removes barriers. Issues of class and status don’t exist on a road of pilgrim pedestrians. There are no BMWs or Mercedes Benz. There are no pimped out wheels or self-defining bumper stickers. There is no road rage as we all are relying on the same bi-ambular locomotion. We are just simply, ourselves, on our two feet, walking the way we were designed. And we appreciate our fellow roaming creatures as well. A leveling effect takes place even between us and the sheep, us and the cows. I see these creatures a bit differently when we are on the same plain, looking at one another with only a fence between us. As I look into these creatures eyes, as we both stand on our feet, and I witness the lamb bumping up into his momma’s udder to drink her milk, and I think, “We are not all so very different, you and I. What can I learn from you today?” Walking teaches us about things that matter and things that don’t.
As my feet walk this road, I find that my life is slowly set back in order. Priorities fall back into place. I cannot rush to get somewhere and pack more into my day. For I simply can only do what my body is capable of and where my feet can physically take me. I cannot squeeze in one last Target errand, while rushing to get children to baseball practice and swim lessons. In walking’s simplicity, a gift of simplicity is given back to me and how I choose to live my life.
Augustine was onto a great truth when suggesting that we have the answer to our problems in our own two feet as he said, “it is solved by walking.”