The strength of the sole

Jeff, Matt and Drew on an afternoon stroll in Oxford, UK, August 2005.

Jeff, Matt and Drew on an afternoon stroll in Oxford, UK, August 2005.

“When you have worn out your shoes, the strength of the sole leather has passed into the fibre of your body.”Ralph Waldo Emerson

Lately I’ve not been able to walk as much as usual, and when I do walk, I notice there’s a difference to my typical rhythms and behaviors.  I’ve been walking mostly head downward, pacing rapidly, with an eye toward getting through the two or three miles as quickly as possible, not taking in the gorgeous sights and sounds that normally add so much enjoyment to my day.

Partly it’s because I am often rushed and barely squeezing in the time to walk.  I think it’s more than that, though.  I am dealing with a different set of challenges right now than I typically am, or at least a more intense version of the same challenges.  Most days, I’m not as able to focus on the springtime greening all around me, or the flowers finally starting to bloom.

That’s OK for now.  I find that walking is beneficial no matter how I do it.  There’s a lot more introspection to my walks lately, and perhaps some of the mental rehearsal that helps me to work through my worst fears and be prepared for whatever might happen.  Walking is a good match for such rumination, a sort of restless pacing with purpose.

If you’ve been thinking you need to be walking, but can’t seem to find yourself in the mood to begin, try starting from wherever you are.  I have found that it builds strength physically, emotionally, spiritually and intellectually.  Not bad for an activity that is free, safe, green and totally portable.  It might not always be fun, though it often is.  In any case, the benefits will accrue, and as Emerson attests, soon you’ll find yourself feeling refreshed in a way that is inversely proportional to the wear on your shoes.  Your soles won’t be new anymore, but your soul will be.

One year ago on May 11:

You should ramble



  1. Larry

    We hope that you all get good reports from the doctors post-op today. The long time spent in the hospital will pay great dividends now. We anticipate that Jeff will get good news tomorrow as well. Things are looking up and we have to focus on these accomplishments on a day to day process.

    • Larry, today passed pleasantly, though the news was mixed. They are pleased overall with how he is healing, but the fluid on the lungs has not decreased; in fact, a bit more was noted on the right side. We’ll just have to keep up the walking and the spirometer exercises, which he HATES. On the plus side, we were out of there in time to avoid the worst of the DC traffic. Jeff said he’s not sure what you might be referring to, since he wasn’t expecting any news today.

  2. raynard

    Julia part of my job is walking and driving. With today’s temperatures, I’m going to pay more attention to my body( water intake)Just turned on the a/c in the house for the dogs( fans dont cut in living upstairs on the 3rd floor where heat rises). You would love our country track /walking park/dog park also. It’s 2 miles around, skateboard park /playground/basketball & tennis court ( I really think it’s gotta be 3-4 miles around with all this stuff.Oh, audiobook still in my plans with with my blogs I sent you.( my radio station podcast I have to get back to since last year).Oh your picture reminds me on the little German town I lived in back in 1985. It was the ice cream shop visits on Saturdays I remember most along with riding the German bus and buying my first car over there. Can I ask you to please keep our family in prayer. My wife’s uncle is getting set up to receive hospice visits at home. He’s giving up the fight to live my wife trying to explain that to her aunt. I’m not going to “be religious about it or”speak King James version..Thank you for always caring and sharing of your time, talents , family and the challenges you face with everyday life. It’s truely a honor and privilege not just to know you as a sister in Christ but the blessing and encouragement you provide lets me know the God loves us all and has our best interest at heart. be blessed

    • Raynard, we totally get it about the 3rd floor heat – sometimes I would guess there is about 20 degrees difference in the temperature between the bottom floor and the 3rd floor (that’s why my computer is down here :D) and Jeff sometimes threatens to buy a separate A/C for the upstairs, but I doubt our HOA would allow it since the power grid is not big enough for everyone to do it.

      I am so sorry to uncle’s situation, especially your wife being tasked with helping her aunt understand. I will be praying for you as I know Michael, Merry and other readers will do as well. I appreciate your kind words about the blog, it is a blessing to me. Have a good week and try to keep cool!

  3. I can see how much you are fond of walking. During our trips we enjoy our walks a lot but the children find it tiresome.
    Here, going for a walk is not easy, or rather boring. Visualize going for a walk covered all covered (head to toe!) in a black burqa, that too in the scorching heat!
    But at school I never miss the chance to walk, though that is a different kind of walk.

    • Bindu, when kids reach a certain age it seems difficult to get them to enjoy anything we like! Having said that, I understand how you could see a walk would be boring and hot, not relaxing. Tonight I read your comment just before going out to walk, and I decided to take you with me in my imagination. I will post about it on May 25 – be watching for it!

  4. I have not gone for a walk outside in over year. Reading your post this morning reminded me of how pleasant it is to to walk, view the beauty and listen to the sounds of nature. Thank u for sharing.

    • Yvonne, you’re welcome! I’m so happy you enjoyed it. Perhaps one nice day when it is not too hot and not too cold, you can take a stroll and make some notes of your own. Thanks for being here to walk with us on this virtual path!

  5. Good morning, Julia. I enjoy walking in my neighborhood. But today I’m attending a memorial service for my dear friend, Sylvia. She lived five months past her 100th birthday and still very alert.
    Enjoy your walk today… 🙂

    • Merry, I am so sorry for your loss, but I rejoice to hear of Sylvia living to 100 and being fully present to enjoy it! Though a long life is a mixed blessing, it is always a happy thing to hear of anyone who reaches 100. Thanks for sharing with us about her life and passing! I know you will miss her but I hope that memories of her life will bring you comfort.

  6. Sheila

    Julia, this has to be one of my favorites of your many writings! It’s just perfect for me today. Several things that I have read this morning are so meshed. An email that I received was of someone recovering from an operation of a very serious nature. The patient said that he had walked a mile that day – up and down one corridor – pushing his IV rack. His next sentence was such a testimony. “I’m joyful – to be able to walk!” May we all walk today and be joyful. I hope you’ll say a prayer for Greg as he recovers.

    • YES Sheila I will say a prayer for Greg, as I’m sure other reader will too. In all those weeks at Walter Reed we saw quite a few people walking along pushing their IV poles — Jeff, of course, was one of them — and while it was hard to see, in one sense, it was also inspiring. Tonight I walked a route that was a bit different than usual and enjoyed every minute. The weather was sublime. Thanks for being here and sharing with us!

      • Sheila

        Julia, I hope that you’re doing well as you are so busy with caring for Jeff and Matt. I think of you so often in the course of the day. I told Walter that I needed to share with you about his newly discovered treat – bird popcorn, from the pet supply store. He agreed! 🙂 Prayers are being answered! Thank you, my friend.

        • Bird popcorn! How totally cool! I wonder if Peggy knows about it? If not, I will have to get some to send to Sweetie. Tell Walter I am a notorious popcorn thief — he’d better watch me if he’s ever eating it around me. I can’t resist the smell of it. Hopefully it wouldn’t be as tempting to me as human varieties of popcorn. Speaking of which, we just discovered a wonderful brand of air-popped that’s delicious (it’s already popped, in a bag) and it’s from South Carolina! I don’t have a bag in the house so I can’t remember the brand name, but they just started carrying it at the commissary. Next time we buy some I’ll let you know. Thanks SO MUCH for your prayers! Just the fact that Jeff is still here and still working is like a miracle after the way things looked in the beginning.

          • Sheila

            Jeff is certainly an “Overcomer”! That’s a powerful video from yesterday. 🙂

            • Thank you, Sheila! I’m glad you like it.

  7. Oxford looks wonderfully eclectic. I really loved strolling through European towns and cities. I enjoyed the architecture of the historical buildings and the uniqueness of each shop. Too many North American shops are so predictable and bland. You can go from one to another and never see anything unique or different. It’s fun to walk through shops with creaky floors or look through wavy glass windows and sometimes visit with a shop pet.

    It sure is tricky to make time for even the most enjoyable activities sometimes. I usually haven’t anything that can’t be put off but still find myself very behind on so many things. I’ve read many of your fantastic posts at midnight or 2am and thought, “I’ll come back and read in the morning to chat up Julia”. Then I get sidetracked all over again.

    I can in no way compare my trivial schedule to your demanding life though. I’m in awe of how you do manage to keep it all afloat. A walk must be entirely liberating. I find that even 30 minutes of ‘alone’ time without distraction, can be really valuable. Even if one doesn’t ponder over schedules or challenges at hand, just being able to enjoy a bird chirping or spotting a sign of spring can bring a renewed perspective to the days at hand. Please know, even when you don’t see me here, I’ve though of you. xoK

    • Thanks so much K, no need to apologize EVER for not being here all the time. You have been a very faithful reader and encouraged me so much in the earliest days of blogging – through your blog I discovered how FUN all this can be!

      Tonight was lovely beyond words. I took along a camera to make some photos for Bindu (see the post coming up on May 25) and I wanted to make video to catch the lovely song of the birds, but alas, my SD card was too full! I need to get better about transferring my photos. Walking is the most freedom I have aside from sleeping 😀 and it is a real sanity saver. I always gain about 10 pounds when I stay in hospitals with Jeff or Matt, despite living mostly on coffee and tea, and this time is no exception; as of today I weigh as much as I have ever weighed in my life, even when I was 9.5 months pregnant with Drew! So I really, really, really did need the walk!

      Talking of the unique little towns – did you find the ones in Napa and Sonoma to be like that? I always thought they were, as are many little towns in CA and also here on the east coast. I think small towns are making an effort to perk up and emphasize what is special about them. Cities are growing so like each other with all the big chains and stores, which is good for being able to run out and find what one needs quickly, but not good when it comes to charm and individuality. When you come out (less than a year now!) you hopefully will be able to see some little towns nearby. As far as creaky floors and wavy glass, you can see those at Colonial Williamsburg if nowhere else!

  8. Yes!! And thank you for the reminder!!

    • You’re welcome, thanks for being here!

  9. I love walking for all the reasons you’ve mentioned. I’m glad you are still making time for yourself. I’m sorry that life is so hard, so much of the time. As Boomdee says, I’m always with you in spirit.


    • Thank you Alys. Even when life is hard, it’s still mostly good. I really believe that. Thanks for being with us! ❤

  10. Michael

    Emerson’s little book on “Walking” is a classic. In it he discusses the word saunterer and how it goes back to the crusades when, almseekers would shout out “a sant terre,” going to the Holy Land. I found that fascinating. Emerson’s custom was a minimal 4 hour daily walk- something like ten to twelve miles. Can you imagine?
    Hospice is sometimes misunderstood, but it is really more about living than the dying, and as one of the recent Upper Room devotions put -“there is often more life in dying than sometimes in living.” I paraphrase.

    • Michael, I did not know any of that about Emerson, but it makes me want to read his book on walking. Since I spent over a year in which I walked five miles per day (no matter what the weather was) I can sort of imagine twice that. In my case it took about two hours per day, but I broke it into two different walks; two miles with Pasha, and then (usually in the evening) 3 miles without him. I had to cut back when my feet and joints started giving me grief, but I may yet go back to that if I can figure a way to deal with the joint pains without resorting to continual Motrin.

      I learned something about hospice during our friend’s six months that he chose to spend at home. Despite the sorrow of losing him and knowing his wife would likely move away from us after he died, there are many precious memories of our times in their home during those last few months. Jeff and I both agreed at the time that he had left us a good example of how to die.

  11. Michael

    Correction. It is a little essay -50 pages-“On Walking,” by Henry David Thoreau. Contemporary of Emerson, I think. It is in the Penguin classic series. It is a tiny book-physically- about 4 inches square, but he packs a lot in it and wants to speak a word for, “wildness and nature.”

    • WOW, what a great tip, Michael – I just looked that essay up and downloaded it (along with the entire Oxford Book of American Essays) for FREE to my Kindle. Not bad for a 524-page book filled with wisdom from some of the greatest minds of all time! If anybody else with a Kindle wants to get it, it’s at this link, and there are tons of other free classics as well. Hint: anytime you are searching for classic on Kindle, find the author and then click on sort – price: lowest to highest. I’m sure a lot of quotes from that book will eventually show up here, if they haven’t already! Thanks!!

Thanks for encouraging others by sharing your thoughts:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: