On Friday I Went for a Walk

A year ago at this time, Mark had been walking for a week (actually, he was on Day 008), and had been posting videos that we were all watching, as his following grew larger. He was in New Haven, CT, and had just stayed with friends. The day was rainy, but per usual, this didn’t bring Mark down. He’d later walking into a Taco Bell and yell, “I’ve got the hook-up,” hoping to win 100 bean tacos. He didn’t.

As I’ve been watching his daily videos a year out from when they were made, it feels similar to last fall. I’m still learning things (as we all were) and his life and actions make me want to be a better person.

Last Friday, we were at Brown, as colleagues from the library and the school’s literary arts department remembered Mark and touched on his legacy at the school. One of the speakers (I don’t recall which one) talked about Mark and his walk and I jotted down a note to myself, “start walking every week.” What I was telling myself is that I needed to do a walk weekly where I left my house and walked out a certain distance. My intention was to think about Mark and his own walking practice during my own walks.

The past week has been a hectic one. I had two articles to write for the auto trade magazine that I write for. I am also selling Medicare Advantage insurance this fall during Medicare’s Annual Open Enrollment Period (AEP) and have two seminars planned for early next week. I’m also tutoring at a private school four to five evenings a week. Still, I didn’t want to miss the chance to get out and do a walk and think about Mark and what he was doing like I’d planned to do a week ago.

Today was the day. I was up early, doing my final edits on my articles and had them done by 8:30. I changed into my walking clothes, grabbed my water sling and fanny pack, and I was out the door a little after 9:00. My plan was to walk out and back for a total distance of six miles.

The first 35 minutes were uneventful. I even did a video of my own. Compared to Mark’s, it’s pretty pathetic. I apologize for sounding so out of shape and out of breath. I was walking uphill while doing it. Again, I don’t recall Mark ever sounding out of breath.

When I got to the intersection of Coombs Road and Route 24 (known as Harpswell Road), a truck heading south made a left-hand turn onto Board Road in front of me as I was waiting to cross. A Prius following close behind the truck swerved to the right and came right at me. I had to jump back or I would have been hit. The woman continued on like nothing had happened.

This pissed me off. But I’d read a book this week by Tom Rath that talked about “assuming good intent,” and being “80 percent positive,” so I had to find a way to turn my attitude around after I made my way across Harpswell Road and began walking east on Board Road. I was struggling and swearing aloud when I realized why this woman nearly hit me.

Driving a car causes all of us (myself included) to lose our humanity and our ability to be humane. We become an extension of a machine that we know has lethal capabilities. Only by consciously getting outside of our cars literally are we able to break free of this and reconnect with our humanity and our humane capabilities.

This woman wasn’t trying to hit me, but simply doing what drivers often do—focus intently on what’s directly in front of them (the truck turning left)—while in probably 95 percent of the cases with drivers, being oblivious to pedestrians or anything else that’s not a vehicle.

Don’t misunderstand me, here. I am not absolving this woman of her responsibility. If she had hit me and seriously injured, or even killed me, she would have been at-fault. But, I was able to “talk myself down” and recognize what had just happened.

I completed my walk. The remaining hour and fifteen minutes was meaningful as I zoned back in on why I was doing my little six-mile walk.

When I was close to home, I removed my shoes and walked about ¼ mile barefoot. My feet felt pretty good, although rocks hurt the soles of my feet from time-to-time. When I got back to Route 24, I put my shoes back on and walked the rest of the way back to the house with shoes on my feet.

I marvel that Mark was able to accomplish so many things on his two walks. He didn’t get to complete the second one, but it wasn’t due to any short-comings on his part.

Taking time to go out and walk and remember him also offers a shade of meaning and helps temper the pain and loss.