Bellingham, where I live, is blessed with great parks, thanks to good leadership and voters willing to pay the freight—wonderful, popular, well-used and well-cared for parks. I’ve used at least one of these parks more or less on a daily basis for years. I was out today, just for a short time, for the welcome chance to connect with the landscape—paths through trees and green hills, the sight of the glittering reflections on water.
The parks are especially glorious on a summer day—the parade of people, or people and their dog-friends, all elevated by the summer sun, the beckoning lake, the trails—dry for once this time of year . . . .
But I love the experience of being on the trails anytime—watching the progress of the seasons. And I also like the sense of being part of a community of the regular walkers. We see each other so many days, for years at a time, and though I have very few personal connections with the other regulars outside the park, we recognize in each other the shared love of this experience, of being in touch with nature in this place.
I love watching runners, too. It’s like watching a dance—I don’t mean choreographed professionals, but just the raw personality that shows through as people let themselves out, let their bodies stretch and move. The people I see at the parks are obviously running for the joy of it, their bodies remembering what it is to be a kid, with kid energy, and the physical resilience of youth.
Okay, it’s also true that while I see a lot of joyful runners, I also see some who don’t look quite so joyful, including some who look as though they wish they were anywhere else.
Watching as I do makes me remember that our bodies are designed to move in so many ways—many more than the linear patterns of walking a path, or bending forward or back—we were born with built-in flexibility and the ability to balance. But as the years go by, we don’t tend to move the way we could as kids.
One of the nice things about movement classes is the opportunity they give to rediscover some of the many ways our bodies can move, especially if we haven’t been active in a while. I mean classes like Tai Chi, yoga, dance, to name just a few. In the last few years, I find that yoga classes are no longer about trying for the perfect form, but more about discovering the benefits of simple stretching and using muscles that otherwise don’t get much of a workout in the course of a day. It’s humbling, I confess, but I’ll take that. After all, that’s another thing I recognize that I need more of.