It is often my habit to take a thirty-minute walk outside in the morning. During those thirty minutes, there isn't mind and body, but simply a cohesive me, alive and present. That cohesive me is looking, with clean, fresh eyes at the trees, the sky, the path, listening to the wind, the birds, the water, and I search with mind and body for words to describe the season I am experiencing, the emotions that are suggested by the coloration and feel of the air.
It seems criminal to me now, as I write this and realize how important this walk is, that I sometimes decide I can't spare the time, that I have to get to campus early or that it is too cold. I have the right equipment for walking in almost any cold temperature we get here (even the 6 degree or 9 degree mornings we experienced last week, in early December - outrageous!). I have walked in almost every cold temperature.
In the nineties, when I first started this daily habit, I walked at five in the morning, to have time for writing and getting ready for school. Throughout the winter, even when the wind chill pushed us below zero, I walked faithfully, with many glimpses of shooting stars (very good for the soul), often overhearing an owl on the other side of the creek (haunting and beautiful, like Chopin for the woods).
This year, my sister was kind enough to lend me her small kayak. During the summer, we used it on the pond (aka WPND, our source for news and information about what really matters). It took less than five minutes to circumnavigate the island, but still gave me the feeling of being...like a dolphin? like a swan? like a person who can swim anywhere without getting wet? It was lovely to skim the surface of the water just as the sun was dropping low in the west, to watch the light change from straight-forward sunshine to intermediate dusk, to sit motionless where one usually does not sit, where the perspective is foreign.
Just before John and I carried the small kayak to its winter storage spot, we portaged north to the big pond, a quarter of a mile away through the woods. There I experienced mind/body oneness on a larger scale, as I skimmed from shore to shore in moments, infiltrated a flock of geese, getting SO close before they decided I was alien, and flapped away in a flurry of spraying water and swooshing wings. The sky was stretched large above me, which doesn't often happen in our hilly countryside, which hugs us close from all sides or camouflages us with tree branches. I drank it all in that cold day in early November, knowing that I will be visiting that pond more often next year when the ice leaves.
Now that I have written about those transcendent times, I have to acknowledge that far more often, my mind and my body are in direct conflict. My cravings and urges to eat belie my knowledge that I do not need so much food. My inevitable slowing down of activity bumps up against my reasonable expectation of some physical activity, some serious exercising of muscles, every day. Next year I will work to communicate between those opposing forces of mind and body, perhaps using kayaking and walking as the mediating planes...