By Susan Vasquez
Five walking sticks wait patiently by my front door. Two are tall and thick, staffs that would announce you from around a corner or behind a row of shrubbery. Three are small works of art. They are all made of wood, too heavy or too ornate to be partners on my walks. They come from travels to the Arctic Circle, the Ponderosa Mountain Fest, San Antonio’s Riverwalk. One is a surprisingly dainty stick from my grandfather’s collection. Another teases me every time I pass by with an eerie face etched into its handle. Each is a remnant of one part of my history that adds up to decades of traipsing to places that are remembered in the soles of my feet and, of course, the scepters at my door.
They are stay-at-home companions that remind me to keep my commitments. If I can wander through the hall where they lean against the doorframe, I can open the door, put on my walking shoes and go. That might mean a long bit of travel, planned out for months and built around places where the walking is good. But mostly, my walks are local. And mostly, they are daily – or that’s the story I tell. You hear it all the time: ‘I take a daily walk,’ we say, but we don’t. It’s one of life’s small lies that doesn’t affect the overall truth of our walking life. We measure that time in years, not days. Too often, what we plan to do each day isn’t what happens.
Sometimes circumstances block the path. The concrete sidewalk that has been your route for years takes a toll on your feet. And so, you take a break. Your ankle complains about the rough landing off the sidewalk; rain may surprise you at 3 p.m. when you always take your walk; you can’t find your sun hat. A phone call interrupts you on your way out the door. You need a new shoelace, but don’t have an extra. And so, another recess from your daily walk is tallied.
Those simple interruptions are better than others: recovering from a knee replacement, adjusting to a new work schedule.
It helps to take a wider view of daily habits; appreciate the smaller paths we must follow at times. I adore, even look forward to, the triple-loop I take around my yard after a rain shower cleans off the dust from the leaves. Though the walking sticks remind me to keep up with my longer walks, they also have seen me pass by them on short walks to the store, and the dashes around my yard pulling down the umbrellas when the wind kicks up.
No matter how long it has been between strolls, the walking sticks wait. There is a gathering of memories inside the lacquered or painted wood of the sticks. The places they come from, the times I have passed by the collection on my way out the door, the memories of the scents along the way and the views around the bends, all this reminds me that I am a walker, and that even small walks count. The walking sticks are simply a monument to a commitment I have made to myself over decades. They measure not each step, but the accumulated joy in a lifetime of walks.
Susan Vasquez has taken walks in many of the world’s most interesting spots, but especially enjoys her strolls around Estero Bay. She is the author of four books, blogs at One Small Walk and is a member of the Bookshelf Writers, four Estero Bay women whose writing can be found at http://www.thebookshelfwriters.com