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Solvitur Ambulando

by on April 4, 2016

                                                                          Solvitur Ambulando

                                                                            by Marco M. Pardi

“It is solved by walking.” Latin. Apocryphal. Often posted at entrances to labyrinths.

All comments welcome.

Every morning I get up, have my coffee, and go for a 1 & 1/4 mile walk with Plato, my furry companion.  Since I don’t shave much anymore he probably thinks I’m furry too.  In cold weather he wears his Kodiak full wrap-around coat; in rain he wear his Nor’Easter raincoat with hood.  Each has a slot in the back to pass the leash through to his chest harness; I’ve always thought leashing a dog by his collar is demeaning to the dog.

The first hundred yards are the hardest; the Voices tell me I don’t have to do this, skipping a day won’t hurt, we can walk around in our woods out back. But, one foot in front of the other.  Apparently others have problems coping with walking; they must have some distraction.  We see people with wires in their ears, noses fixed on a hand held screen in front of them, or babbling like an ambulatory psychotic – until one sees a plastic bauble above one ear.  And, the joggers.  About the dumbest thing a person can do, but the hip and knee replacement industry loves them.

What we do not see – or it may just not be obvious, are people taking in their surroundings.  It’s as if the surroundings are just to be gotten through one way or the other but not appreciated for what they are.  I am reminded of three days in the mid 1950’s when I spent time in a monastery/retreat house literally on the shores of Lake Erie. The days were filled with various religious instruction including the frothing rants of a priest who lectured very graphically about the fires of Hell, even showing a film purporting to show how it would be if we didn’t rid ourselves of impure thoughts. But an adolescent penis speaks its mind when it wants and where it wants.  The nights were far better, with allowance for us – the boys from Gilmour Academy, to walk the large labyrinth in the gardens.  Although ignorant of the term “detox” at the time, I walked that labyrinth with the sensation I was walking through a cleansing shower.  In the gloom I heard other boys cracking jokes, mocking the priest and talking about girls as they bumbled along the stone pathways.  In fairness, some may have gotten something from their walk but what I saw and heard could as easily have been gained in hallways between classes.      

I’ve always had a deep attraction to the Moon, Luna in Latin, Selene in Greek.  Psycho-analysts would say it was a desire to be elsewhere, and I would agree.  But I feel I’ve made an important discovery in my walks.  The Moon at night is clear and well defined, but Other; it is distant in a way other than mere miles. Because everything else is shrouded in darkness it stands alone.  But the Moon in the bright blue sky of morning conveys a deep sense of presence.  In the context of the world I can now see around me it is an undeniable reminder that we co-exist in endless space; it is the larger context in which I, a mere micro-speck, traverse an almost equally small micro-speck I call my neighborhood.  Time becomes irrelevant except as a measure of the Moon’s transit, reminding me at once of the ultimately meaningless way we order so much of our lives, reminding me too my efforts to speed or slow the hands on the clock are meaningless in the cycle and flow of all things.  My walk is a metronomic cadence against which the rhythms of my life are felt, analyzed, and allowed to vaporize behind me.  A destination cannot be reached without a journey, inside or out.  And if I carry all my life baggage with me, have I reached my destination or have I just moved my baggage?

And Luna appears. A stark counterpoint to our houses, cars, manicured lawns, mailboxes, wars on each other, predation on every other living thing, and self-righteous tunnel vision. Never moving an eyebrow, simply being with a Mona Lisa smile that says her perspective is far beyond our tiny self made labyrinth. She is inching away from us year by year.  Perhaps sick of watching Gaia struggle with the melanoma known as mankind.  Who can blame her?

Not given to pareidolia – seeing images in clouds, I nonetheless enjoy watching dawn break, illuminating clouds from below. Some clouds are Wagnerian in their splendor, some more reserved, not sharing their judgment with those below.  Different regions seem to have their own characteristic cloud formations.  Blue water sailors tell you they can predict landfall by the kinds of formations. Before I was married I had an associate who owned a 48 foot motor yacht.  We often cruised to the Bahamas to mix with the international elements who found safe haven there.  But she was killed before I learned much about open ocean cruising.  Some would say she chose the wrong path, intersecting with another in her walk through life. I disagree; quae cursu suo – things take their own course.

The morning clouds put on a spectacular show but I have yet to see any fellow walkers/joggers looking up.  The colors are ever changing, making me wonder how, before photography, artists managed to mix their paints so correctly before the color changed. Must be something about “photographic memory” at work here.

As the temperatures change throughout the year I’m reminded of a question I once asked my major professor, a Psychological Anthropologist from Finland: “Are people from cold climates less likely to be outgoing and demonstrative in greetings when outdoors and, if so, is it that the cold keeps them huddled in their winter gear?”  He said he didn’t know, but there were two linked hypotheses in there that deserved examination.  We never got the chance to pursue these, but I wonder to this day. Unless someone is obviously engrossed in cell phone conversation I almost always greet people Plato and I encounter.  The colder the weather, the shorter the reply although Plato often gets compliments on his very fashionable “Detective” coat.  In warmer weather I’m reminded that insects do not fly, despite our mistaken impressions which actually lead to calling particular insects “flies”.  Most small “flying” insects do not fly; they swim.  Even indoors, wave your hand briskly from side to side.  You will notice air has density.  And when you compare the density in our human context to the density in the context of a normally immeasurably light weight insect, you realize the insect is being carried along on a current – or swimming against it, just as a swimmer in a fresh water lake (less dense) or a salt water ocean (more dense).  Beginning SCUBA divers learn this difference, sometimes at cost.  That mosquito did not fly to you, it swam to you. Want an insect free evening on your patio? Forget the expensive zappers and the poisonous lanterns.  Place a simple box fan so the air currents prevent the insects from swimming to you.  Getting out of our contextual perspective opens the world in innumerable ways.

So no matter the weather, each walk is a realization, an experience of the real.  Also known as Enlightenment.  What’s real does not change because we realize it. The face in the mirror does not change because we see it for who it is.  Mindfulness is full realization of context.  My morning walk, shedding the aches and pains of aging while experiencing the morning songs of birds around me is not a walk to a destination. With each new step it is an affirmation I am where I am.  As long as I think I have not arrived I will deny myself the realization of who and where I am.  And that denial shuts out life.         

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19 Comments
  1. You conjure up beautiful images in this piece. I too am mesmerized by the moon. Picture a clear blue morning sky, with the moon hovering over snow capped mountains. This is what I wake to most days. Often the sun rising causes the snow and the mountains to look bright pink. I have tried to get a picture that captures the beauty, but never can. I get upset if I miss seeing the full moon. A full moon always fills me with a sense of magic and excitement. You clearly have witnessed many beautiful sites in your life and continue to appreciate each new one. On another note, one of my (many) pet peeves is people talking on the phone while walking their dog. I want to take the dog away. Be with your dog! Seriously, sir/ma’am you can take 30 minutes a day and not be on your phone and the time spent just being with your dog will improve your life. You can look at the dog’s face and see how unhappy they are when their owner is not giving them their full attention. Thanks for the interesting information on flying insects. One of the best things about where I live now, we don’t have those. Coming from Florida there isn’t a day I don’t appreciate that. I’ll remember this though if I’m ever in northern Canada in the summer, again.

  2. Thank you, Mary. I can imagine that Maxfield Parrish moon above you in the clear mountain air. I completely agree about the people who seem connected to a dog only by its leash. I wonder why they even have them.

  3. Marco, I walked to Publix yesterday morning shortly after 7:00 a.m. Although I am always awake by that time, I rarely set out on a walk that early.

    As you know, I too have a deep connection to the Moon, and there it was, a visible sliver of white in the morning sky. After five months of living here, I felt a thrill to see my neighborhood in the wondrous light of the rising sun. The streets were practically empty of vehicles and humans alike. On the rare occasion I go on a leisurely walk without Billie, I have a completely different perspective.

    This was a beautiful post. Sleep is calling, but I will end with the happy thought of Plato in his outdoor wear. I think of the two of you often while I am out with Billie.

    • Thank you, Dana. I often wish you and I, with Billie and Plato, could walk together. I’m sure the two of them would be best friends.

  4. Thank you for the lovely visual and description of the body, thoughts and curiosity . As with everyone who replied here I too look at and for the moon, even when it’s covered by clouds 7 months of the year. I do this with my dog Vivienne (I so adore her) as she walks happily next to me.

    Growing up and living in a very rain laden climate I would imagine a very cold climate would keep folks from being outgoing and demonstrative. The need for connection is very strong for some folks and others, not so much. I would be that person who would take the that extra few seconds. Stranger or not. I would even sacrifice the risk of a little bit of frost bite if there were a connection ;). The connection I feel is in that instant split second space where words aren’t spoken. But nicer weather does allow comfort and we need that however. I also imagine if the connection is strong enough there would be effort made to reconnect somewhere in the near future in a warm place, indoors, over a hot cup of something.

    I could go on and on as I love to discuss and talk about wonderment and unfolding. With that I do know I am right where I need to be at any give moment, regardless.

    I like this “With each new step it is an affirmation I am where I am. As long as I think I have not arrived I will deny myself the realization of who and where I am. And that denial shuts out life”.

    A funny thing…I watch Vivienne as we walk and she seems to be interested in some people and some dogs as she ignores the rest. She’s funny that way. And she would rather not walk in the rain.

  5. Thank you, Jezzebelly. I completely agree: that instant before words often conveys meanings more pure than the words used to fill the space. But it’s too bad so many people seem to float along in their own closed bubble.

    I bet Vivienne is fun. Plato and I would likely enjoy a conversation with her.

  6. Pam Wedding permalink

    I really enjoyed this post, Marco. Have already passed it on to friends and family!

    Missy and I have a usual route for our walks. She’s content with wherever I want to go. I know each spot she will mark and how many walkers have been out before us. But when I take a new path she becomes especially attentive-it can slow us now considerably! She’s so funny! I’ll have to find one of those detective capes, sounds adorable. I spent way too much on a Patagonia fleece winter coat…but she loves it in the snow.🐶

    Hope you and Plato are enjoying these beautiful days!

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    • Thank you, Pam. When I take Plato to the park he gets so excited he foams at the mouth. I’m hoping no one thinks I’m walking a rabid dog. I get his clothing at Drs. Foster&Smith, an on-line store. Reasonable prices and speedy delivery.Plato says Hi to Missy.

      Friends and family are always welcome to join the conversation. Marco

  7. I try to be someone who lives in the now, but since reading this two mornings ago, I find myself more consciously aware of my surroundings than usual. My husband and I walk our dogs along the same short circuit twice every day; I walk primarily in silence, while he keeps up a running commentary, mostly talking to “his” dog. I am ignored by those we pass, while he seldom fails to speak with each of them; it is just a difference in our natures, I suppose.

    The sky was bright blue this morning, with just a few fluffy clouds. A breeze moved the leaves in the trees, and ruffled the waters on the lake. There was birdsong in the air. What a beautiful day in which to be alive!

    No, things (with the possible exception of quarks) don’t change just because we look at them, but maybe being aware of ourselves and our surroundings might change us just a little. My journey isn’t done until that final door is pulled shut behind me, and maybe not even then. Until that moment, I hope to be allowed to live out my “now” to the fullest.

  8. Thank you, Rose. Your comments are alive with imagery. I found myself walking with you. I think we do that as we allow our context to flower around us, complete with the people we treasure in our lives.

  9. I’ve always felt a connection to the moon. I’m not a day person to any degree and never have been, but this post made me wish I had a dog I could take on early morning walks. I don’t think any of my cats would be too keen on it. But I wholeheartedly agree that people should be in the moment with their fur-babies. I have Teeny purring on my lap right now, but we have “me time” where we play and she has my undivided attention every day. Why have a dog or cat if you don’t want to spend time with them?

    • I quite agree, Ash. Some people seem to see cats and dogs as accessories. I don’t know about walking the cat. When I lived walking distance from a college where I taught my cat, Rommel, would walk with me all the way to campus. It was most frustrating because I wanted to shoo him home but didn’t want him to think I was angry with him.

      • I’ll never understand those people. My cats are my children. I rescued Teeny from an owl and bottle-fed Sarek and Evil. Aw! That’s the cutest thing ever. I think Teeny would be perfectly happy if I carried her around in a baby sling all day, but walking and associating with Other People? Nope.

  10. Mark Dohle permalink

    i love to walk, but tend to do it very slowly. I read once that one could approximate how long one will live by how fast or slow they walked. So I guess I don’t have long to live…..I walk very slowly…that is unless there is a plate of french fries somewhere, which thankfully there isn’t to often….now that would shorten my life.

    I do love the moon, and love the nights that are so bright that it is possible to read by the moons glow. In Panama there were more than a few nights like that.

    I had to laugh over your remarks about teenage boys and their penises. Glad those years are over. I once read an article where some men did a study, an expensive one, that after much digging into whatever they dug into, to come to the conclusion that the teenage years are the hardest….hell, they could have given me the money and I would have told them that. I like aging, even with all the bodily changes etc…….looking forward to being 70 in 21/2 years….well perhaps I should walk faster so I will make it LOL.

    I am glad Dana posted one of your stories on face book, I lost your blog address. Now I got it back!!!

    Peace my dear friend
    Mark

    • Thank you so much, Mark, and I’m so glad you’re back. I also read the ideas about walking speed and longevity. Observers might say I’m doomed, but military injuries left me that way since my late teens – early twenties.

      Looking back, I’m not sure which years were the hardest. Perhaps they are yet to come..But knowing now that you and I probably walk the same speed, I would look forward to walks with you.

  11. My Journey Out of Darkness permalink

    What if everyday is a new destination? It is more about the journey than the destination but you keep going. In essence the journey never ends because there is a new destination with each step. If there was a destination and the journey had to end I think I would get bored after the journey was over!

    • Thank you, MJ. And, thank you for re-posting. I agree about the boredom; I think that is the essence of the fear of retirement. When people define their journey narrowly through their daily occupation they are lost when they must part ways with that occupation. Being is the journey and the destination.

      • My Journey Out of Darkness permalink

        EXACTLY!!

  12. My Journey Out of Darkness permalink

    Reblogged this on Ethereal Beings In My Life and commented:
    This blog post is both beautiful and thought provoking! Please read and, as always, comments are welcome!

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