The Walk — Part 1

Today I took a walk. A long walk.

William Wordsworth told me to.

As I sat in my office working through another lunch, answering calls, returning emails, problem-solving, trouble-shooting, I heard it, “The world is too much with us; late and soon, getting and spending, we lay waste our powers…”* Old Will was whispering to me. Chiding me.

That’s what you get when you’re the child of English scholars — 19th century poets talking in your head.

The world was too much with me. After a long, cold winter, after several hectic months at work, after cooking the dinners, folding the laundry, paying the bills, and doing all the things that mothers and working people everywhere do every day, I had reached my end. The world was not just with me, it was all up on me, and I had to get out in the sunshine. Right then.

So I did.

I started out from the office deciding I would walk as far as I could in 30 minutes, then turn around and walk back. It didn’t take but about a half a block for me to remember how much more you see, how much more you hear, how much more you feel when you’re hoofing it down the street and not riding in a car.

I walked past a crowd gathered around a preacher shouting messages of hate and damnation. The onlookers weren’t buying it. A few hollered back. Most gazed at the spectacle with varying degrees of bemusement and disgust. I walked on.

I heard two women talking as I passed. “Thank you again for caring enough to ask,” one said. “That’s what friends are for,” said the other. I walked on.

I saw dogwoods, irises, pansies, kale, and flowering things for which I have no name. The pollen swirled around me in a yellow cloud. I sneezed. I walked on.

Wordsworth’s admonition rang in my ears. “For this, for everything, we are out of tune.”*

I walked in the shadow of Southside Baptist Church. I felt small gazing up as its enormous marble columns lifted the pediment to the heavens. Insignificant. Humble. I walked on.

I saw award-winning chef Frank Stitt sitting on a fountain getting his picture made. He posed. A reporter hovered. The photographer snapped away. I walked on.

Almost back at the office, I saw a sticker on a traffic signal control box. It said “Be Open.” I am, I thought to myself. Open to taking a break when I need one. Open to walking. Open to experiencing life instead of driving by it. I walked on.

Wordsworth was in my head again. I felt like shouting. “Great God! I’d rather be a Pagan suckled in a creed outworn; so might I, standing on this pleasant lea, have glimpses that would make me less forlorn; have sight of Proteus rising from the sea; or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.”*

I walked on.

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* From “The World Is Too Much with Us,” a sonnet by the English Romantic poet William Wordsworth.

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