I’ve been walking a lot lately. This morning I woke up thinking about a quote from Oliver Wendall Holmes:
Walking, then, is a perpetual falling with a perpetual self–recovery. It is a most complex, violent, and perilous operation. . .
When I walk, I deliberately destabilize myself, catch myself with the next foot, and repeat the process. This is how I get places.
I stroll all alone down my street and then up the big hill. As I walk, I crunch the fallen and abandoned acorn tops with my shoes. That crackle of flattened cupule (the lovely word for the acorn shell) delights me somehow. My gait looks silly–Chaplinesque without the cane–wobbly and off-kilter as I seek out shells to flatten.
It’s a little dangerous and slippery. The shells cover the walkway and make me aware of my steps. I’m smiling with the game of it. Here I am, falling and recovering, leaving a wake. I’m unstable and then stable. But I’m still in the game.
Later, I arrive at the school doors and begin the walk home with two girls by my side. We three crunch acorn shells, each in our own segment of sidewalk. That microcosmic movement–walking–as a perpetual falling and recovery showcases the complexity of our whole journey. We fall; we recover; we get to crunch acorns on the way.
PS–I’m thankful for days of walking. For those who cannot walk today, I honor your journey. And for those in rehabilitation and physical therapy, I’ve learned from Holmes just how difficult that process is. Keep up the hard work! May God quicken your recovery!
Sometimes when I’m missing certain places, I’ll visit them using Google Street View. I can walk down childhood roads, visit old neighborhoods, observe favorite restaurants or city streets, or spy on my own house–all thanks to Google’s Street View.
And sometimes, when I’m imagining what life must be like in a different city, I’ll visit University of Melbourne in Australia, cruise a street in Beijing, or explore Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood or 5th Avenue in New York. Yesterday, I even drove down US 25 towards my favorite summer spot in the mountains of North Carolina–all clicking my mouse on Google’s arrows that lead in whatever direction I choose.
It’s always tempting to believe that a better life exists in another location.
I want to believe that my location is what makes life good. If only I were in this place or that place or here or there. But the deeper into the life of faith I travel, the more I realize the truth behind the writer’s statement in Psalm 90 that “the Lord himself is our dwelling place.” And this morning before church, I read in the book of John where God says that “he makes his home” within us.
How curious: I dwell in God, and God dwells in me. Sometimes I think God lets me leave certain places and arrive at others just to learn this truth. If God is my dwelling place, it doesn’t matter where I am; I’m home. It’s the Spirit of God that makes any location marvelous. Can this be true? I want it so badly to be.
Visiting locations from my desk reminds me that my happiness isn’t found in a place. It’s within me– where God dwells.