walking is incredibly liberating.
to do without the metallic chunks of a vehicle, of keys, coins, gas, and grease, and to do with just your own body. with just your own two legs, each foot touching the ground beneath, moving you forward.
vancouver taught me to walk, very far to get to places. it was usually a stroll, hardly unpleasant. with bags of books and groceries, or on winding foot paths through a forest, or skipping along the city streets under the rain. those walks were not always solitary; often it would be a walk holding mahal‘s hand in mine. or with a large crowd chanting, parading, marching together through closed streets. i think these walks gave us all a joy, a strange euphoria, knowing that we could go far and that we could do much with nothing much really, but just by being on foot.
manila too is teaching me to walk. in the lack of well constructed sidewalks, it is a game of balancing over cracked cement, strewn debris and garbage; the pedestrian needs to find one’s way through squatting vendors, rusting fences, and past other rushing bodies. every step my feet take is a moment of awakening –even to the passing smell of piss, the sudden belch of smog, or to the sight of campaign posters melting over crumbling walls. it is hardly a stroll here, but walking has become ever more my practice on staying present. on foot you awaken to realities alive all around you.
maglakad, maglakad… caminando, caminando…
“La utopía está en el horizonte. Me acerco dos pasos, ella se aleja dos pasos más. Camino diez pasos y el horizonte se corre diez pasos más allá. Por mucho que yo camine nunca la voy a alcanzar. ¿Para qué sirve la utopía? Sirve para eso: para caminar.”
“Utopia lies in the horizon. When I draw two steps near her, she retreats two steps away. If I walk ten steps forward, she swiftly slips ten steps ahead. No matter how much I walk, I can never reach her. What, then, is the purpose of utopia? So we keep walking.” — Eduardo Galeano
walking is a practice.
at maintaining presence, of moving, to keep moving, with intention and in wakefulness. one cannot walk not knowing where s/he’s headed; but even if it seems that another, better world is not anywhere nearer, the steps one takes are just as real. also beautiful.
once a man whom his students call Thay (or teacher) also taught me how to walk. he lived in vietnam during the great war, fully awake to all the tremendous pains inflicted on his land and people. he was nominated by dr martin luther king for the nobel peace prize, for his courageous heart that spoke against the war. today an old teacher, he continues to walk –one foot, and the next, one at a time– with all those who wish to walk too. to heal, including the earth beneath our feet.