When I was thirty-five I finally realized that I needed to walk at least an hour a day in order not to feel like crap. Unfortunately, this means that for most of the preceding three and a half decades I did feel like crap, because I figured that feeling like crap was what life felt like. My usual response to an acute case of crappiness was to take a nap, as I assumed that to be the cure, even though I would often wake up feeling worse, almost drugged, and have a thick head for the rest of the day.
Somehow or other during our time in France, when habitually over the course of the day I would walk an hour in all to get to and from work and then to and from Zeke’s school, I gradually came to realize that I didn’t feel crappy on those days. At which point the penny dropped: on the days I didn’t walk at all I went back to feeling crappy again. So pretty much ever since I’ve walked every day, about 95% of the time at least an hour and all in one go instead of broken up. When life permits I walk longer than that, and in any and all weather. I eventually switched to going barefoot when I could, too. It’s the most straightforward causal relationship in health and mood I’ve discovered yet: the more I walk, the better I feel.
The walking has led to a lot of other attempts to improve my overall movement health, which I’ll discuss another time. But a more recent development (i.e. starting this past April) has been keeping a walk log. I suppose this could be a manifestation of our peculiar twenty-first-century trend toward the quantified self, but it is not so much a statistical log as a mnemonic one: I wanted to find some way to remember all my many walks, a great number of which covered the same ground (literally) as I ran errands to the same places again and again. So I set myself the task of trying to notice something distinctive on each walk and noting it down, along with the number of walks I took that day (1W or 2W) and whether I went barefoot (B = barefoot, BB = both barefoot) or in huaraches (H = huaraches, BH = both huaraches).
What has emerged is a kind of plot without a conflict, or an autobiography according to one very specific daily habit, as well as a prod to keep walking and a place to admit defeat when events overtake me. So I thought it would be interesting to share here what moving from Minnesota to Tokyo looks like when told from the perspective of walking. The walks begin in St. Paul.
7/26—2W1B. Got to see a fire engine pulling out of the station with the siren blaring. Also Turk’s cap lilies in yards are at their gorgeous peak.
7/27—2WBB. A robin with its feathers all puffed out like in winter; the little purple blossoms with yellow hearts on deadly nightshade.
7/28—2WBB & can’t remember anything else about it.
7/29—1WB. Tiger swallowtail! Never noticed them around here before.
7/30—1WB. Asiatic dayflowers in bloom.
7/31—1WB to Mississippi Market & rather than an observation today I record my dismay at MN drivers’ refusal to acknowledge pedestrians & how much it infuriates me.
8/1—2WBB. Unusually high level of window shopping. Plus, spotted 3 flatbed trucks in a row bearing huge quantities of rolled sod, which I think ended up outside the new apt. bulding across from Kowalski’s, because it was brand new along the sidewalks there & when I stepped on it I sank up to my ankle!
8/2—2WBH. More window shopping along Grand Ave. in the other direction; patches of altocumulus clouds overhead. Also A. & I walked back from dinner @ the Schulers’.
8/3—1WB down to Cretin & back. Stopped in for bread at Snelling & when I came out saw a huge dark blue storm closing down on me—so raced back & right as I saw lightning & drops started to fall I made it to the house. Whew!
8/4—1WB. Andrew & I made one last pilgrimage to the library to say goodbye & drop off my last book. I gave the building a farewell kiss & hug.
8/5—NO WALK! ALAS! Broke my record. In all fairness, because in transit all day moving to Japan. I guess technically I walked a fair bit through Haneda airport…
8/6—2WBH. We 3 took an early walk around the ICU [International Christian University] campus (6:30–7:30) because it was already so blazing hot & we were awake. Crazy huge loud cicadas! Then later walked back from trip to the appliance shops with Toppo.
8/7—1WH. By myself up the main street near us scanning for shops of interest & regaining my lost composure—generally overwhelmed at what we have done.
8/8—1WH. The three of us through the typhoon early in the morning!
8/9—Multiple shorter walks, H. On one of them A. & I stopped for a look around the Buddhist cemetery close to us, noticing esp. the long flat wooden poles inscribed w/ calligraphy.
8/10—Super hot walk to Don Quijote late morning, plus I went for a half hour alone early just around ICU, so 2WBH.
8/11—1WH to park but had little time there before I had to turn back. Heron.
8/12—2WH. Morning around ICU. Such huge crows here! Then back from TLC [Tokyo Lutheran Church] to Shinjuku [train station] past the big old Godzilla on the movieplex.
8/13—2WH. Morning walk through a section of ICU I hadn’t found before; saw a bunch of boys playing soccer & tennis. Second walk all over Ikea…
8/14—1WH to Musashi-sakai [train station] & back. More shopping… 😑
8/15—1WH again around ICU, this time farther back to faculty houses hidden in the jungle.
8/16—1WH to shops at Musashi-sakai so I could study the grocery store at leisure. Back in MN I always strove to notice something new to mention, but here, honestly, so much is new I don’t even know where to start!
8/17—1WH down to Jindai Botanical Gardens & shrine—got as far as the entrance but had to turn back due to time. A gaggle of 6-year-olds spotted me; one boy stood stock still, mouth hanging open, staring at me. The others giggled & peeked. A real live gaijin [foreigner]!
8/18—1WH. Cross-country to discover 2 larger nice grocery stores not too far away, plus more kiwi farms & fruit/veg vending machines.
8/19—1WH. Besides getting to & from church, we walked all over Sensōji temple & the Asakusa neighborhood. Our first Buddhist temple in Japan.
8/20—1WH out to the electronics store & back via Hard-Off (snicker) & Kohnan with Andrew. We cycled through various waves of culture shock & decision fatigue.
8/21—1WH late afternoon after run to Nitori through side streets.
8/22—1WH super duper hot to Kohnan & Gourmet City for bike patch kit, yeast, and sakē. Saw a huge blue dragonfly.
8/23—1WH in the neighborhood of CAJ [Christian Academy in Japan] (plus bike ride there & back). Buddhist temple, pomegranate tree, butterflies, children & moms splashing in canal.
8/24—1WH in several parts: to Musashi-sakai, from bus stop to CAJ, back again, grocery run.
8/25—1WH early in day because SO!! HOT!! Many interesting dragonflies & foraged a spring of rosemary from an overgrown bush on ICU campus.
8/26—2 shorter walks H. One around Shinjuku after church to visit another Muji [Japan’s answer to Ikea]. Second after dark when I realized I hadn’t walked enough so just up & down our main drag, but there was the most amazing lightning storm going on a behind a huge storm cloud so far away I couldn’t hear the thunder but it lit up the whole sky, several bolts every second. And a full moon to match—the same face we see in North America & Europe, so comforting.