Walk and be happy

Drew and Matt enjoy a walk in Laguna Beach, California, July 2004

Drew and Matt enjoy a walk in Laguna Beach, California, July 2004

“The sum of the whole is this: walk and be happy; walk and be healthy. The best way to lengthen out our days is to walk steadily and with a purpose.” Charles Dickens

When I think about it, I’m surprised that this quote came from Charles Dickens.  It sounds more like something we’d hear from Dr. Oz.  I have this idea that during the years Dickens lived, people didn’t have much choice but to walk, unless they were wealthy enough to have horse-drawn carriages.  I also wonder what Dickens and his contemporaries would have considered to be a long walk, or for that matter, what they would have thought of as a long life.  I’m not sure what the average life expectancy was during those years, but Dickens wasn’t much older than I am now when he died.  I wonder if he took his own advice.

In any case, I agree with what he says here. “Steadily and with a purpose” doesn’t necessarily imply going somewhere practical such as the post office or grocery store, although I find it especially satisfying if I can exercise and save gasoline at the same time.  Often, my purpose is to clear my mind, enjoy a cool summer evening, or take some photos.  Since I always seem to be short on time, the “steadily” part takes care of itself.

What are your favorite reasons for walking?  Whatever they are, I hope that health and happiness are among the destinations you reach on foot!


  1. That is a great quote! I like to think of Dickens, striding through an English glade, teasing out characters and plots in his head as he went.

    • Yes, I imagine he did that very thing several times. I’m glad you like the quote! Dickens is a favorite of mine.

  2. Eric

    I have noticed that this blog almost invariably couples walks with the word evening. Another good reason for walking is mornings; but I understand about a third of the population are “allergic” to mornings. :-0

    • In my case, I do enjoy early morning walks, but the circumstances of my life have rarely left my mornings free. It was many years before I could even get up and attend to my own morning routine unless I rose early enough to be finished and ready for my other responsibilities by 6:00 a.m. It’s the sort of thing one can’t understand without having been a full time caretaker for nearly 30 years. Having said that, though, I am definitely not a morning person. My mornings and daytime hours have never belonged to me, having been reserved for tasks that were seldom of my own choosing. Aside from vacations, the evenings, and even more so, nights, are the only times I’ve felt free to take time for the things that I most enjoy. And sometimes I don’t get enough done in the day to have even that time for myself, but it’s then if ever. One thing this blog has done for me is created something I “need” to do during the daytime that I happen to enjoy.

  3. Sheila

    Good Thursday morning, Julia. Bill and I must have walked hundreds of miles with Salty, in his 15 years. That’s the way it seems! In latter years, I would encourage him to “pick ’em up”
    and he’d walk a little faster. He gave me a real purpose to walk. Remembering Salty and Pasha this morning. With a smile, Sheila

    • Sheila, dogs give us the wonderful gift of “needing” to get outside regularly. Almost all of the neighbors I know at either of our homes, I know better because of seeing them outside while walking our dogs. While Pasha was alive, especially in those later years of his life, I would ALWAYS take him for that 2-mile walk even when I didn’t feel in the mood, because I knew he needed it for his health. Funny how that was a stronger motivator for me than MY health, although I have continued to walk faithfully even without him. Thank God for Salty and Pasha, and all the animals who have blessed so many lives!

  4. MaryAnn

    Walking outside gives me the joy of enjoying God’s wonderful Creation! At the same time, I am breathing in the oxygen He provides; I am gaining strength in physical & spiritual ways.
    This photo of your boys is heartwarming!
    God bless you & “my” other Dentons…

    • Thank you, Mary Ann! Your youthful spirit is no doubt due in part to your staying on the go. We are so grateful for your friendship.

  5. Carolyn

    Hope all is well at the Denton house and Jeff is feeling better each day. My eyes problem is the muscles behine my right eye are swelling and that is why I have double vision again. I go to another doctor the 5th of Sept. to see if she can help, it is the Graves. Right now I waiting for the cool summer night, it has been really hot here. You all take care, hugs and love to all.

    • Carolyn, the heat has been oppressive here too (though probably not as bad as Memphis) and I hope you get some relief soon. Do you have to wear an eye patch? Vision problems would be very tough to live with, I imagine. I hope you will be feeling better soon! Love to you and Terry.

      • Carolyn

        No I don’t wear an eye patch. The doctor put a prism on my right lens of my glasses. Hard to believe what a piece of plastic will do. Take care.

        • Good, I’m so happy they don’t have to make you look like a pirate! 🙂 Those of us who have had bad vision most of our lives have long been thankful for those pieces of plastic – especially the very tiny ones we put in our eyes! Hope you have a lovely weekend!

  6. Often times walking is a time of fellowship for me. In all the different places I have lived I have managed to find a walking partner. The time passes quickly when I enter a conversation with someone. Plus I get to know others better. Sometimes it serves two purposes, physical health & mental health (therapy session). If I can’t find a friend, my husband will usually consent to walk with me. I tell me he’s taking me for a walk. 😉

    • Barb, it is nice to have someone to walk with. Jeff and Matt have walked with me a few times, but they prefer gyms and machines, which I can’t stand. When we lived in northern California, Jeff’s commander lived near us and his wife, a very sweet and lovely person, would walk with me sometimes in our neighborhood. One thing I do if I’m walking alone is listen to an unabridged book on tape, or if I’m feeling sluggish, some lively music. One of the great things about walking is that it does leave us free to converse, enjoy music or listen to books – none of which I could do with Zumba, which is nonetheless quite fun.

  7. Is frightening to think of what the average life expectancy was just a century ago. How short a time you had to do enjoy life. I know my dad and his siblings walked a long way to school everyday and always walked to the river a mile or so for fun and games. When I lived in the country, I did a lot of walking with my neighbour Karen. Our community was about 2.5 miles from the highway and the roads were paved, so with little traffic it made for a peaceful walk. Amazing how with a good pal you never run out of things to talk about. We still do a lot of walking downtown because it’s easier than driving. There’s a lot more stop and wait for crosswalks and traffic though. We’re lucky to have an amazing river valley trail system and that’s where we head too, it’s like being in the country but you’re in the city. Nature has a pace all it’s own, any time you can be part of it, brings calmness to my life.

    • It’s wonderful that you have a good urban trail system. There are some very good ones here in the DC area that I hope to enjoy before we leave here. We are very fortunate to be able to enjoy relatively long and healthy lives. Even as recently as 10 years ago, someone with Jeff’s diagnosis would not have been offered anything more than palliative treatment, and now the picture looks so much brighter for him than it did even 8 months ago. We are thanking God for every day we have. All the hassles of living can easily obscure what an amazing gift it is just to have another 24 hours.

  8. Rene

    In no particular order:
    1. Because I can’t stand driving or parking the car in the midst of traffic
    2. Because it makes the dogs so happy if I so much as brush my hand against their leashes.
    3. I’ve been sitting too long/I’m going to be sitting for a long time.
    4. To smell the flowers.
    5. To watch the sunset.
    6. Because I’m too tired to run anymore.
    7. It makes that Carl’s Jr. burger taste sooo good.
    8. Heart-to-heart with my walking friend.
    9. So I can think about that really good book I just finished.
    10. It’s Sunday afternoon.

    I could go on…

    • Ditto on all those reasons, except substitute “iced fruit bar” or “ice cream” for “Carl’s Jr.” (though we loved their burgers when we lived in CA) and “book on tape” for “heart to heart with walking friend” (I don’t have any walking friends who live nearby). The one you listed first is TOPS on my own list. It feels totally insane to me to drive less than one mile to Walmart and then spend 5 minutes (literally) looking for a parking space, even a distant one. About the only time I take the car shopping close by is if I’m buying something heavy, or there’s thunderstorms with lightning and/or I’m short on time and need something right away — and that’s very rare.


  1. I travel somewhat differently | Defeat Despair

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