Like some sitcom cliche´ of a mother hiding in the bathroom with the door locked, I am rarely alone. As a homeschooling mama, my children are my constant companions. And they truly are companions; glorious, wry magpies endlessly observing and reporting on their world, their wonder, their wanderings. Even as I revel in their company I realize that my slowly emerging self care must include moments of solitude and so ‘Mama’s walks’ were born. A small morning ritual that is opening places in my heart that I had not known existed, or known that I needed. Sliding into my boots, pulling on my cap each morning has become a practise of both prayer and gratitude; a small window of time to connect with my spirit, to return to my body.
Not being a religious person, I instead form praises, absolutions, forgivenesses as I walk, my breath huffing them softly into the early morning sky. Wet days they hang, beaded in the air in front of me. Today, the sun slid out from behind the forest leaving ghostly golden shafts between the trees and the words felt like birdsong flying from my lips. Thank you for the muscles of my legs, thank you for the bellows in my chest sucking the marrow from these still, stolen moments. Thank you for the messy wash of thoughts that sluice as I move, and for these hands ready to grasp, hold, caress. I speak my patience, my energy, my hopes into the arms of the alders, the fulsome songs of the birds, the winding edge of the road I walk along. There is something of the metaphysic in it; making this time and speaking these words in time with my steps, they take up residence in my heart, manifest in my life.
Just as I walked endless days with my children, rocking them in utero or in sling, I now walk towards middle age, toward growing children building lives of their own, even toward an old age I can only barely imagine. I walk away from my childbearing years, away from nursing and tending to tiny needs. This thought sits like a rounded pebble next to my heart; heavy, but peaceful. This body, which I did not appreciate during its youth, did not revere or love for its tautness, its easy bends and supple abilities emerges now in the middle days of my life as a bulwark, a place of refuge, wisdom. The gentle slope of my breasts, the silvery slide of my belly into the waist of my pants, the arms in which my children’s bodies linger and curl, the soft spots my husband’s hands fit against have become a map of so much more than births and anniversaries marked annually. It is both a before and after map; pieces of my younger self there beside shadows of my mother and grandmother. It is a vessel that transports my highest and lowest selves, both body and soul practising the sacred work of living, mothering, learning. Walking connects me to the endless pendulum of life; to the swing of my hips and the breath of the wind, to the golden whirl of hopes and the capacity of my heart, to the cold slice of loss and the glory of friendship and love. Each day, it is my most simple and profound expression of gratitude.