“Above all, do not lose your desire to walk: every day I walk myself into a state of well-being and walk away from every illness. I have walked myself into my best thoughts, and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it”. ― Søren Kierkegaard
I do not know much about gods, but I know the spirits that walk this country road with me. I know their names and I know their gait. I hear their whispers alongside me. I hear Richard, a childhood friend, shuffling his feet and breathing heavily. I walk with the dead and we are good companions on this winter’s day.
It’s not happiness that I am experiencing but a sense of well-being. These are very different dispositions and I, for one, prefer the latter. It is snowing heavily and I am rambling along my regular four-mile route. I find myself here because I was in despair (reasons varied and unimportant), and I have often found that movement elevates my mood. I walked yesterday and I am walking today and I fully expect that I shall be walking tomorrow. The despair I carried was a heavy load and, although I have dropped off a good part, I need to shed more.
I invite the departed along to learn from them. Those souls have known despair and I can tell the depth of their anguish in the way they travel. How easily we walk (live) is determined by what we carry and the weight of it. Of course, I can’t see the dead physically, but I sense their presence. And I know whether they are in front of, behind, or next to me. Yesterday, they were all marching on ahead, save Richard, who will always be last. Dying young, hit in the head with a baseball bat because of a fight over a pinball game. We were close friends in grade school.
Today, I am in the middle of the pack, having shed some heaviness, and I am hoping in a day or two to be out in front. I don’t mind despair’s occasional visit; I just don’t want to live with it.
While wandering along today, I sang “Walking in a Winter Wonderland”. Not too loud but loud enough to hear myself. Pollyanna, my deceased step-mom, was next to me and she enthusiastically joined in. She loved the winter and even booked herself a “one horse open sleigh ride” before she passed. It was such a duet! It elevated my sense of well-being.
Discovering and nurturing a sense of well-being, embraced by the spirits of loved ones, stands as a powerful remedy against despair, or any emotional turmoil. Again, I do not know much about gods but I do know that I am comforted by the enduring love of those now gone who, in life, loved me.
And they remind me, as softly as possible, that I will die as well. They nudge me to realize that my remaining time should be cherished and invested with care - that kindness rendered now will have an enduring impact long after I am gone. That life can be hard, is often beautiful, and death need not be feared. They whisper how valuable it is to grant whatever emotion pays a visit a moment's contemplative embrace, before it's gently let go.
I arrive home draped in a blanket of wet snow. Shedding my hat and coat on the porch, I witness sparks of joy dancing in the air while black specks of despair fall to the ground and melt away. A winter's stroll holds charm, but returning home lighter than when I embarked feels especially rewarding. I haven’t felt as blessed in several days. There's an enchantment, a nourishment in being the first to place my foot on pristine snow. I departed as one character, yet returning, I feel transformed. Immersed in grace like the air that permeates me, and buoyed by the love from long ago, I hold my pessimism and fears in check and my hope rekindles once more.