I admit it. I am built for speed. To do a lot. To be efficient. To get the most done that I can with the least amount of time and effort.
I am also a walker in the woods. Have been since my childhood where the woods behind my house were my constant haunt. Recently that passion for the outdoors has manifested itself into hiking – whenever and wherever I get a chance.
Which is why, just as stay at home restrictions were lightening just a bit, the suggestion of a hike with my daughter and the three grand-kids made my heart sing. We agreed not to hug and be close. But we would be outdoors, hiking together.
At our appointed time we met in the parking lot, gathered things up and began. And all too quickly I realized that this was not the way I hiked. I hike with an eye to the path ahead. I hike with a steady pace. I hike with a spring in my step and clip off 3 to 4 mph, even in the toughest of terrains.
On this day, as we finished and my daughter checked her Fitbit. She informed me that we had hiked 3 hours. And we had gone exactly 3 miles. Not a respectable 6 or 9, but 3. Exactly 1 mph
What happens when you walk 1 mph? Here’s what happens:
- You pick up interesting rocks and sticks
- You climb that steep hill and then slide down, again and again, just for the challenge of it
- You discover two snakes slithering in the underbrush
- You take note of all the various wildflowers and stop to admire them
- You balance precariously as you cross fallen logs and then do it all over again for good measure
- You skip stones in the creek
- And when the creek beckons, you wade in and splash and laugh
When you walk 1 mph you see things you normally would breeze just past. You have new and unexpected experiences. You have fun. You drop your need to be anywhere by any time and just enjoy what is where you are.
Hiking 1 mph has given me pause more than a few times. For in many ways, it is a metaphor for a lesson I’ve been trying to learn my entire life. To know, really know that:
- Faster is not always better
- Obsessing about the future robs me of the present
- Joys come in simple and unexpected places
One of the hidden blessings of the pandemic is that it has forced many of us to slow down. We don’t have any place to go other than where we are. The future has gotten fuzzier and fuzzier – and so plans get disrupted, re-planned and disrupted again. We make do with simple pleasures. Our backyard. A well prepared meal. Sunrises. Sunsets.
The learning I hope to pull forward is this: There are times that speed matters. But that is not ALL the time. I hope, going forward, I can begin to better discern when to sprint, when to move steadily at a good pace and when to slow down to 1 mph.
I’m curious – what lessons in life has the pandemic brought for you?