(published March 27th through my newsletter)
When the subject line of this note came to me, I was, in fact, on a walk down a long empty road. But upon hearing it I thought, oh shoot.
NO ONE is going to open an email with a subject line like that! C’mon, can I get a new header please?
Nope, replied my mind. This is what you’re writing about this week. You gave them that dating story last week, they can handle a long empty road this week.
So here we go…
The long empty road I walked yesterday was a dusty and rutted byway on the outskirts of Joshua Tree.
I was walking down the center, something I love to do – walk straight down the middle of the street.
A couple days ago my father reminded me that I’ve always preferred this, ever since I’d do it for safety late at night when I lived in sketchy areas of cities.
“Oh yeah,” I recalled on the phone with him. “Then no one can jump out of the bushes and grab you.” The middle of the street was illuminated by streetlights, it felt safer than the shadows.
Since the quarantines started, my father has also taken up walking down the center of the street. He lives in a humble neighborhood in Winooski, Vermont. Now that there are no cars out, the whole street has become his sidewalk.
Usually when I find myself walking alone down an empty road it wasn’t planned.
Yesterday I did not intend to take that walk. I had done work things all morning and was in my camper listening to a podcast about productivity. The host was in a terrific frenzy saying NOW NOW NOW is the time to create and produce more/better/bigger work.
“Don’t slack off!” She said. “Don’t get lazy! Get to work!”
Although I generally like this podcast, something inside me said, nahhh.
I paused her voice and stepped outside. The sun hit my face and it felt wonderful. I took a deep breath of the bright day and wandered toward some creosotes.
Then, a few minutes later, I was at the edge of the property… and a spell later I was miles away, walking down the center of the long, empty road.
I don’t know where I’m going, but I’m going. That’s the feeling on these walks.
A long empty road is simultaneously infinite and contained. It is contained by its edges, but the straight line of it disappears into the horizon.
I noticed my eyes felt so good out there in the open. The close focus of eyes on a computer screen contracts the ocular muscles. If you hold them there for a long time, they get quite worn out.
(Try looking up right now! Look up from your screen and find a horizon! Notice how your brain feels, how your energy and breath shift when you gaze into the distance!)
Yesterday, wearing a wide-brimmed hat, walking down that dusty road in the sun, I tried to imagine what I was doing exactly one year ago in NYC. I would have been zipping around the city on the subway. Teaching lots of yoga classes. Working hard saving up for the camper.
I was tired back then. Deeply tired. It took great effort to smile at a class full of students – to force the corners of my mouth up to welcome people into the room.
But I had to keep going.
Gazing down the empty road, I imagined what I would think back then if I could see a snapshot of where I am now, one year in the future.
I would have been so happy.
I’d see the snapshot and wouldn’t know what town I was in, or all the hows of getting there, but I certainly would have smiled an effortless smile at what was to come.
To be outside in the middle of the day on a Thursday on a long, empty road in the desert…
It’s like a poem. It’s like a love song.
Maybe it’s not just the sense of the “infinite contained” that is so satisfying… it’s likely also the feeling of “walking away.”
To be caught in your head, trapped in a hornets nest of thoughts, of “to dos” and “should dos” and just stop, open the door, step outside, and walk away…
Whoa. There’s a whiff of liberation!
I don’t know what else I can possibly say about it. But if you’re someone who finds yourself walking down the middle of long, empty roads from time to time, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.
Maybe you should go find one now?
Warmest wishes always,
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