October 23, 2017
Last night was a beautiful autumn night. Just a little crisp. A bit of a breeze tiptoed through the drying leaves on the trees, whispering to those who bothered to listen. The lake lapped at its shores. A flock of mallards quacked themselves into a cove and settled into what I can only presume was a peaceful duck sleep. And I walked in circles with 20 pounds of weight strapped to my back.
About four miles into this circular adventure, I was considering my aching knees and the hot spot at the base of my left great toe, the pulling pain in my right hip and the way the straps of the backpack were annoying me by rubbing the insides of my arms, and the eleven miles I had left to go before this little project was finished. Naturally one might wonder why I was walking fifteen miles in circles. About this point in the journey, I was wondering myself.
My workouts have been floundering this year, and I joined a program called Pathfinders in order to shake them up a bit. It requires lots of walking with weight in a pack and the completion of four challenges chosen from a list. I chose this challenge as one of mine, but in the dark with increasing numbers of body parts hurting and eleven miles and at least a couple more hours to go, I was having trouble remembering what the point of it was. Honestly, I was concocting reasons to quit.
I still have a fair amount of work to do by the 31st, and even if I completed the fifteen mile overnight challenge who was to say I’d complete all of the other things I need to do? I mean, at just over four miles in I was already suffering. The farthest I had walked up to this point was about six and a half miles. I was more than doubling that. The only thing I would even get out of it was a patch and the satisfaction of knowing I had done it. No one but me would even care. I was rounding the fifth lap, heading up the hill that doesn’t look like much but somehow seems to be ridiculously steep, and looking into the orange light that blinds the unfortunate soul trudging up the incline. My plan was to walk to the car, doctor my foot, restart at a slower pace and ponder how much more suffering I was willing to tolerate.
Then I saw a dog — a German shepherd dog to be precise. He was bouncing along, sniffing here and there, wandering off leash and posing no threat at all, but his person had turned around when she saw me, and I was afraid she was heading back to the car with the pup in order not to scare me. So I stepped it up a bit. Watching the dog would be a welcome break in the monotony. As I trudged up the hill, though, I realized that this furry fellow looked familiar. And come to think of it, the person silhouetted in the orange light did, too.
When a large portion of the rest of the world was winding down for bed, my friend loaded up her dog, drove the better part of twenty miles and walked in circles with me for a while. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have finished without her even though I walked another four hours after she left.
Eventually I quit walking the hill portions because my leg muscles just wouldn’t do them anymore, so I walked back and forth over the flats. Though I had bandaged the budding blister near my toe, my heels gradually started burning, too. My hips ached, and my left knee started feeling weaker and weaker, as if any minute it just wouldn’t hold. Occasionally I would think about quitting, but something as simple as my friend taking a couple of hours out of her night to show her support kept me from doing so. I knew she didn’t really care if I went the full fifteen miles. She’s good like that. But because she and my hunny supported me, I pushed through. (Yep, he sent regular check-in texts from his boys’ weekend rooting me on and making sure I was safe.)
In those hours after my buddy left, I thought a lot about the simple things we do for one another — a text checking in, a phone call, remembering to ask about a doctor’s appointment or an event, a card every now and then or any number of things. And I thought about how much those things matter — how sometimes they’re the glimmer in the dark. Rarely do they bring about life altering changes, sure, but what they do do is they make the every day bullshit easier. These little things show us our cheerleaders, the ones who believe in us, the friends who care enough to remember. The thing that changes the course of events is knowing that they’re there.
This story and all related material are the original works of Estora Adams. All rights reserved.