giant steps



My mother told me once that Werner Herzog walked from Munich to Paris to heal his friend who was very ill. She told me this when her own publisher and close friend fell ill, and wondered if she should begin to walk to Pune from Hong Kong, where she was, and if he would recover by the time she got to him. He got well by himself, and she did not need to make the journey. But she was quite serious, I believe, when she said it. I remembered this story yesterday as I neared the end of my walk. I started going on long walks only after my mother died. I don’t know whether walking long distances will heal a loved one or not, and won’t go too far into the idea that my mother could have been alive today if only I had walked across continents to be by her side.

For one reason and another and another – my cholesterol, my reflection in the bathroom mirror, my burgundy velvet dress that no longer zips up – I have started walking everyday, what seem to me like long distances. Today I thought, when I was done, that from now on I would walk for someone other than myself. That I would dedicate each day’s walk to a person somewhere in the world who was sick, or hungry, or sad, or lonely. I could walk for entire countries. For war-mauled Iraqis, for the citizens in darkness in North Korea, for the starving children of India, for those left in the rubble that is Haiti . The sick parts of the world, and all the sad people in it, are more numerous by far than I have walks, or even steps left in me. But if Werner Herzog is right, and we all walked a little for someone else, maybe we could heal the world.

I am not given to sentimentality, or any kind of spirituality – I just cannot help but feel there is a kind of no-nonsense practicality in this idea. Tomorrow’s walk has a purpose. And at the end of all my walking, even if I heal no one else, I will be a healthy corpse.

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