Sometimes, the simplest subjects lead to the most profound stories. Take walking, for example. In Rachel Joyce's novel, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, a walk to a post box leads to a 600-mile saunter up the length of England and an epic journey through the life of the protagonist, his family, his neighbors, strangers along the way ... and all of us.
I am helpless in the grips of a good story, and this book dug in deep. Thank goodness for my Montessori training and Little O's independence - he put up with me sitting down throughout the day to grab whatever time I could to read while he played, and once my husband got home, I barely moved from the reading recliner until I'd devoured nearly 300 pages. Perhaps Harold Fry's journey gripped my attention so completely because I have a deep fondness for walking and I nurture fantasies of setting out on many-hundred-mile treks of my own. I also know several people who have done so: my friend Amy hiked the length of Oregon on the Pacific Crest Trail; my friend Dave has done the Camino de Santiago with his son, along with other significant walks, including San Francisco to Port Orford, Oregon. Dave's son Jonathon has walked the 3,000+ mile width of the United States and now promotes the myriad benefits of "life at 3 miles per hour" through his company, Walk 2 Connect, in Denver. Walking can open all kinds of insights into one's purpose in life.
Little O and I just take short walks right now, but I'm eager for the days when he can set out for long periods with me, hiking along richly scented paths and drinking in the beauty of nature, experiencing the wonders of human ingenuity and learning about our own limits and loves, reveling in the ability to put one foot in front of the other, mile after mile. Walking long distances, one alternately walks backward in time through past experiences and forward into the clarity of unknowing. I want O and I to walk out the little miscommunications and hurts that are sure to arise between us as he grows, so he learns not to bottle everything up in the loneliness of his own mind like I, and Joyce's characters, did.
My favorite passage from Joyce's book is as simple and profound as the whole story:
"Harold could no longer pass a stranger without acknowledging the truth that everyone was the same, and also unique, and that this was the dilemma of being human" (p. 158).
Good journeys to you.