Sunday, December 11, 2016

Hermitage III: On Choosing a Staff

This side of sixty, I find walking in the woods just a little dodgier. The numbness in my right foot, the result of some serious lower back defects, has advanced enough these last couple of years to affect my balance on uneven terrain. It doesn’t help that I snapped a tendon in the other ankle on a flip turn in the pool one afternoon about five years ago, either.  I’ve arrived at the point that, scrambling over roots and stones, a walking stick feels like a comfort and a reassurance.  

And also: an admission of advancing age; a reminder of the tenuousness of physical health; a challenge to my gay male fixation on fitness and a body as toned and strong as I can keep it. If I need a stick now, will I even be able to take this walk at all in fifteen years? Or in ten? Everything that arises, the Buddha tells us, is subject to dissolution. That would include me. Or at least, would include what I habitually think of as me. 

I’m not yet ready to buy the stick I expect I’ll eventually carry more continuously. So setting out from the cabin down the slope onto this afternoon’s trail,  I scanned the fallen leaves for likely prospects. I found a thin, supple, surprisingly straight piece of vinewood, probably left there by someone who’d used it as well. I liked the spring of it, how it responded to pressure. I could count on it, but not for too much. It offered just enough reassurance, gave me just enough added stability to feel more fully the pleasure of starting off down into the ravine. I had to pay conscious attention to it as a companion on the journey. In return, it reminded me that I was a man of a certain age, walking a trail exactly as a man of a certain age should do.

No comments:

Post a Comment