On foot

Walking toward wellness: Jeff stores up health he would need ten years later. Point Reyes National Seashore, California, May 2003.

Walking toward wellness: Jeff stored up health that helped him survive ten years later.
Point Reyes National Seashore, California, May 2003.

“Sickness comes on horseback, but goes away on foot.”William Carew Hazlitt

Seemingly out of nowhere, it hits– the devastating diagnosis, or the catastrophic accident, or the debilitating chronic pain– shattering the life of a loved one, or self.  Life changes– sometimes forever. We feel blindsided, helpless, resentful, afraid.  But somehow, we keep going.

The horse that arrived so suddenly may have been heading for us quite some time, although we did not know it.  A sudden reversal of health carries with it the shock of surprise, but in most cases, it was building gradually to a tipping point where it became too obvious to ignore. Occasionally we can send it away with almost as much speed as it arrived; the quick, successful surgery or “miracle” drug that carries a swift cure.  But even then, complete healing will take time.

Likely, the recovery will seem even slower than it is, because when we travel on foot, we notice almost everything. This may seem a curse at first, but in reality it’s also a blessing.  Gradually we come to realize that the tiny details that fill our newly-slower days are the true substance of the life we crave.  We recognize the value of this altered life, and resolve not to take for granted a single minute of enjoyment, laughter, or freedom from pain.

Even if we have never been sidelined with illness, our wellness has always traveled on foot.  It cannot be rushed or wished into existence. It is made of clear, cool water, sipped serenely on a warm day; of morning breezes that visit us carrying birdsong; of real, unadulterated food eaten with joyful gratitude, of quiet moments spent reading or praying or meditating; of comforting words or companionable silence with someone we enjoy.

If the illness comes back, we will bear it patiently, knowing that we will return to our walk toward health again. Perhaps the pace will be slower, with longer breaks that must be taken more frequently, but we walk in the direction of well-being, whether mental, physical, or both, and we are surrounded with the solace of fellow travelers who know the way, and understand.  It’s a lovely road, and the weather is often breathtakingly beautiful. If you should happen to meet us along the path, let’s walk awhile together.


  1. Good morning, Julia! That’s a great photo – I can almost smell the fresh sea-salt air! No wonder folks used to go stay by the sea to recover from illnesses. Not only is the air cleaner than inland, but the lovely sites beckon us to come on out and get some small bit of exercise, returning to our recovering feeling a bit better and happier. What a lovely way to rest and take care of ourselves.
    (And I’m sure our improved attitude would be a blessing to our care-givers, as well!)

    • Susan, I think places like Point Reyes could truly be thought of as medicinal. I’ve said the same thing to Jeff about “taking the sea air.” It’s one reason we were so determined to go on a transatlantic cruise together, and so crushed when his brain tumor prevented it. I really believe being at sea for 7 days straight could have been a very healing thing. I know the “sea days” are a balm to my soul when we are at sea. But as you point out, one can enjoy them on land as well, maybe the best of both worlds.

  2. Beautifully said! It does leave you changed in so many ways you never even imagined. Then you must adjust yourself to the new lifestyle and be grateful for it.

    • Thank you, Marlene. You are among many readers here who have truly lived what I wrote about. Your persistence and cheerful spirit are an inspiration to so many of us. I agree with Boomdee’s nickname for you – “Marvelene” 😀 — Perfect!

  3. Carolyn

    How are you all doing? We are ok right now. I will sent note later. Love and hugs .

    • Carolyn, not so good lately. Jeff is in a scary phase of losing weight no matter what he eats, and feeling very fatigued all the time. We meet with the doctor Monday to find out what (if anything) we can do about it. We are hoping it’s mostly a reaction to the whole brain radiation. I’ll look forward to hearing more details from you soon. Meanwhile, I’m sending you giant healthy hugs!

  4. Ann

    What a lovely post. I have shared it with my sister and others. I would be honored to walk awhile with you!

    • Thank you Ann, for being with us, and also for sharing our posts with others.

  5. Renee West

    Julia – your gift with words that are cradled deep inside of you are a light into everyone’s soul. I am amazed by the gift God has given you. What a wise God we have.

    • Thanks Renee. You are my favorite cheerleader. On second thought, maybe a better analogy would be the person in the corner of the boxing ring, giving water and cool towels and encouragement and a slap on the back to get back in there and keep fighting. I am so grateful for you!

  6. Good sharing, Julia, and so very true. I hope Jeff is much healed by now..or doing better.

    • Thank you Cynthia. We’re in a scary place right now but he’s staying brave and cheerful, which helps me do the same.

      • I’m sorry to hear it. I know you both cling to the faith. God be with you, though Christ our Lord. Life here and beyond is created by such Love.

  7. Sheila

    Good Wednesday morning, my friend. I’m so thankful that Jeff has the stored up reserves of not only his health, but his strong faith and love for his family. When a person, such as Jeff, strives to push forward, continues to do for others, very rarely complains, and knows in his heart that God has his hand through it all, he is victorious! Thank you for this wonderful post. 🙏 Sheila 💛

    • Sheila, thank you so much. I have had you on my mind lately, wishing we had more time together at Club Verandah. But from here I can simply close my eyes and feel the sea breeze and hear the gulls, and if I look closely my mind’s eye can see Jack dancing around on the sand. Thank you for the reminder that Jeff is already victorious. I do agree with you. Love and hugs!

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