Walking in Times of Stress

Walking blog post size

This past weekend George and I went walking at our favorite local woods, Lake Maria State Park. We’ve been walking at Lake Maria on a regular basis since last spring, when we “discovered” it for the first time in years. It became our balm, our oasis, our calm connection to nature during a stormy year.

As we hiked on Sunday, I thought of all the times when walking has been the salvation of our marriage.

We walked after our first child, Elijah, was born. During that time of surprise, delight, and shock that a new, first baby brings, we walked around our little town in Iowa. We were out for hours each night, literally hours. Eli rode attached to one of us in the baby carrier, the one place he was quiet and content, and we walked and talked. We looked at the houses and talked of architecture. We talked of dreams and plans and daily things, too. I often thought that walking was all we had at that time, when even our marriage bed was filled with a crying, fussy infant.

We’ve walked in small towns, big cities, to the (almost) tops of mountains, in the woods, next to beautiful bodies of water, and down country roads.

My husband and kids hiking up to Grinnell Glacier, 2013.
Our very favorite and the most spectacular walk ever, up to Grinnell Glacier, 2013.

We turn to walking even more when times are stressful. The shock and stress of that first year of parenting rivals the shock and stress we’ve been through in the past year. And like back then, we turned to walking again.

We’ve walked for hours and hours this year in Lake Maria State Park. The terrain of the trails there is up and down, up and down. Through woods, past lakes and wetlands, up and down the hills. We’ve seen (and heard!) the Sandhill Cranes come through on their migrations both north and south. We’ve sat and watched a family of Bald Eagles fly in and out of their nest in a high tree across the water of the big lake. Our mouths have opened in awe as Great Blue Herons and Snowy Owls flew overhead. And we’ve spent hours sitting by shore, chatting, and watching turtles sunning on logs then dropping quickly into the water if we make even a tiny motion.

I won’t say much about black fly season, except that we all-out ran the two miles up and down the hills of the trail swatting at them one day in July, and we didn’t return until their season was over. We learned our lesson!

Walking. Sometimes we’ve each walked alone, literally pounding the pavement as an expression of our emotions. Anger, sadness, regret, fear, excitement. But mostly, for 21 years now, we’ve walked together. And we keep walking together, moving forward.