This week, I stopped being able to walk.
After years of having full faith in my blessed body to take me far and wide – through 100 kilometre overnight hikes, New Zealand mountain treks like the one in the blog cover photo, a marathon and many half-marathons, humping packs in the Army and countless other stuff – I couldn’t make it to the Post Office to drop off an envelope.
The Post Office is about 100 metres away. An unprecedented flare of osteo-arthritis in my left hip stopped me in my steps and sat me on my butt. Pain as sudden and startling as a jet smashing the sound barrier, but without the benefit of me going anywhere.
The intense and debilitating pain started a week or so earlier on, of all places, Khreshchatyk, the main street of Kyiv. Khreschatyk basically means “crossroads” in the Ukrainian language.
In my case, I didn’t come to a crossroads and get to choose a way. Rather, I went prone on a park bench on Khreshchatyk, and tried to figure out if I could get an urgent Uber to rescue me.
It’s in the same month that my 25 year old son, Tim, took his first steps of millions more on a 7,000 kilometre walk across America with his girl, Wendy, following his extraordinary trek from the bottom to the top of Australia in 2016. It’s the same month that my 23 year old daughter, Pixie, returned from New York City to take her first steps towards her flower farm dream here in our amazing country. It’s as my 85 year old mum continues a slow recovery from her second hip replacement in six months. Significant step season, I might call it.
So, perhaps, it’s exactly the right time to start this new blog about walking and talking about people, places and possibilities that are encountered and experienced. As we walk and talk through this life, what makes for hope? What drives our all-too-common despair? How do we see what’s unique and special in the other – and God-like in all of us – to help and save ourselves?
And, importantly, where’s there a good Vietnamese banh-mi pork roll and is that some retired general’s daughter making it? (The best in Sydney is at Excel Rolls on Macquarie Street in Parramatta, btw.)
It’s a way of marking where I’ve walked before now: across many lands as a migrant and cultural chameleon; through the lives of many fascinating folks – be they Prime Ministers to guys on garbage trucks, and; through roles aimed alternatively at winning polls and saving souls.
It’s a way of holding ‘hip hope’ – or rather determination to gracefully and affirmatively get older and, pray, kinder through connection, service and presence.
It’s a way of taking years of scribbling – poems, haiku, short stories, unfinished novels, ‘instayarns’ (or micro-fiction based on photos) and newspaper essays – and giving it a different ‘platform’, to use the language of today’s IPA micro-brewers and digital maestros.
But I know it’s about more than these “wild and whirling words”, as Shakespeare called them.
Rather, as Father Daniel J. O’Leary, a Catholic theologian, once said: “The soul needs context and form.” (Here’s more on him: http://www.djoleary.com/pages/general.htm)
Yes, we will walk together – be it a Sydney suburban shopping centre where all the signs are in Chinese or Arabic, or a Ukrainian village of hard history and fragile future, or say an Alp or two where we sip on schnapps – and take some snaps too.
Yes, you’ll also occasionally stroll with an invited VIP guest with whom I will yarn and then salute with sentences – who might even be you if you’re willing!
But with conversations with both the dear and the distant, with the tapping of fingers on keys, I hope to go further. I am challenging myself to share the work of the soul. I am challenging myself to be uncomfortable – and perhaps make you uncomfortable – by writing down things like God, love, creativity, purpose, and 42 (as in the meaning of life). How do you go when you read those, eh? Just a bit uncomfortable? Good.
Basically, herein is the search for what I call ‘deliberated decency‘ in myself and in a world that seems increasingly constructed around concocted conflicts and digitally-driven dichotomies of ‘us and them’. That might be the ‘good guy versus bad guy’ stuff of good content and the Trump/Putin era, but I’m not sure it’s the stuff that holds us together in a civic middle, or evokes Lincoln’s better angels in each of us.
Nor, four years this month after the downing of MH17 and the death of 298 innocents, does it acknowledge real evil when it’s actually occurring – and we’re too numbed to confront it.
Herein, I respond and I build in my own little way – through you, through walking, through getting to know the people on those walks, through divining a bit of what’s divine in all of us.
It’s one thing to walk with one’s feet – even grueling distances and vast heights. It’s another thing again to aspire to physically okay to do so again. And, I certainly intend to again.
However, this bum hip is making me learn that those might actually be easy. It’s altogether harder to let the heart out for a wander. I hope that you’ll join me in that and be well.