I Walk the Line

First thing this morning I went for a walk. I had a letter that needed to be mailed and the nearest post office is at our nearby grocery store.  Since my letter needed an authorizing stamp, there needed to be an actual staff person there to receive it and that staff person wouldn’t arrive until 9.  I was there at 8:45 and so I thought that in the meantime, I should call my wife and see if there were any groceries I could pick up while I waited.  She obliged and gave me a list of half a dozen things that would be needed in the upcoming meal plan.

When I was in University, I walked to the grocery store all the time.  You shop differently when you walk.  Anything you buy, you have to carry.  Whether you want to carry it or not, you need the groceries. So I bought the 5kg  bag of flour instead of the 10kg. I walked with a 4L jug of milk inside of two grocery bags and a dozen eggs in one hand, and the flour and produce in the other. I didn’t buy anything unnecessary, because I would have had to carry it.  I didn’t buy a snack for my walk home, because I would have had to fight with my bags to even bring the snack food to my mouth.  I rarely walk long and hard enough for my walk to a strain on me, but with a 12 kg load (or so), I could feel my arms and legs yearning to be home.

Although not technically a walk, I did use my feet for something else today.  I rushed back from the grocery store so that I could meet our sewing machine repairman at 9:30. I watched as he cleaned, oiled and tightened my machine.  When my wife’s paternal grandmother died over ten years ago, Ana got her old treadle sewing machine.  I used it a few times at our apartment in Ontario, but even then it had a few glitches I couldn’t figure out.  We wanted to modify some curtains last week, so we brought out the old machine again and I couldn’t get it working. We looked over the owner’s manual, and while it had a warranty when it was purchased, that expired in 1944. Luckily there is a guy in town that fixes them, and so we called him over. He was a retired widower, and as he adjusted knobs, wound bobbins and sewed test patterns, we talked.  We talked about the small world connections he had made. We talked about other sewing machines he had fixed, many of them donated to a thrift store and sold for charity.  In just over an hour, he had the machine working smoothly again.

So as I held my strips of curtain fabric and tried to keep it straight, I couldn’t help but reflect on the past.  The needle going in and out of my fabric was being powered by my feet, just like it had been powered by my children’s great-grandmother in years past. I feel like when I make choices like to use this old sewing machine, I am giving a vote to my ancestors on how things should be done.  When you take your foot off of a treadle sewing machine, it doesn’t stop immediately. At the beginning, when it’s most important to be holding the fabric correctly, you also need a hand on the wheel beside you. If your foot falls out of rhythm with the machine, you need to focus on what you’re doing before you throw off the pattern.

There were no profound discoveries on my “walks” and again a lot of old memories that weren’t giving me any new information, but they were worth the effort once again.

I’m walking, look at me

Sunday morning I challenged my congregation to do a few things.  I suggested they should pray more if they aren’t already praying regularly.  I also suggested that they could use the words of the Psalms as their prayer or at least to frame their prayer.  Those, while perhaps new for me, are pretty standard things for a pastor to suggest to his congregation.  The other thing I added was a challenge to go for a walk.

Walking is good exercise, better for the environment than driving, etc. but walking is a chance to get away from the worries of our life. Walking can be a profound time of closeness to God.

I have little control over who will follow my advice, but the biggest question isn’t will anyone else do what I say, the greatest question to me is will I do what I say.

So, tonight, I went for a walk.  The distance and the destination aren’t terribly relevant.  I walked for about half an hour, and it wasn’t long before my mind started cycling through the various pertinent issues of my life. But rather than arrive at some sort of epiphany, I simply replayed conversations in my mind. If anything I found myself re-convincing myself of the things I had already said.  This reminded me of another spiritual quest.

My memory can’t give me any new information, so what is the point of reflecting on it?

I’m likely not the only one who feels this way, but when I am in a conversation/argument where the same things are being said over and over again and there doesn’t seem to be any progress, I would rather not be there.  I would rather leave.  More than once I have left a conversation like that to go for a walk. When I go for a walk though, I keep hearing the argument played out.  I hear again and again what was said to me, and repeat in my mind the words that I said back. I reiterate why I was write to say those words.  But I cannot leave that conversation.  Not only am I reminded of my words, but I am reminded of the ineffectiveness of them.  When I go for a walk after a stressful conversation, I am putting myself in the shoes of my opponent. I hear my own words over and over again. I start to realize that they were not good enough, and I start to understand that I need to either say different words or say my words differently.

So, while I haven’t gotten any new information, the parts of memory have assembled themselves and I am farther ahead than when I left.