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Walking Songs

Walking Songs

Sometimes, when I go walking, an odd thing happens. My mind, so often filled with the daily stresses and tensions we all live with in today’s world, relaxes.

I walk on for some time before I realize what’s happened. Instead of thinking about what I need to do—go to the store, heft groceries inside and put them away, prep and cook dinner, make sure Mom eats at least a little of it, clean up, sit down and pay bills, make sure I get the laundry done—I notice suddenly that all I’m thinking about is my steps.

Meaning that each step I take has moved, unbidden, to the uppermost importance-slot in my mind. I’m not thinking about working. I’m not thinking about what’s going on in the world around me, not rising prices, not the distressing political situation in my country, not climate change or global warming or the potentially grim times ahead.

No, I’m thinking about my steps as I walk.

Maybe I start counting them under my breath: one-two, left-right, three-four, left-right, five-six … and on, and on. Maybe I’ll whisper-sing a little marching tune: “row, row, row your boat” or “the ants go marching one by one, hurrah, hurrah…”

My feet hurt, sometimes miserably, as I walk. Both feel like I’m walking on jagged gravel instead of smooth asphalt. But as I sing about ants or rowboats or Johnny who came marching home, I’m relegating the pain to some other, less important compartment in my mind. There’s a kind of triumphant satisfaction in that.

I sing-chant to maintain that brain-silence I’ve achieved…

…not allowing stray thoughts to intrude into this unique form of mind-body melding. And of course, while I move my mind is still busy even though I’ve managed to convince myself that it’s not. I see houses. I see cars. Dogs. That helicopter. Those flowers. The temperature of the air and how lovely it feels gliding by my cheeks, the way the breeze blows and ebbs, and blows again. Scents: dry leaves, new grass, auto exhaust, roses.

And the ants go marching. Or rowing. Or whatever. How many steps, now? Four-hundred? Gotta pick up some chicken breasts and don’t forget the almond milk. And magnesium for Mom, and … oh, now, stop that. With determination, now: left, right. Left, right, left, right, left. Left. Left … left, right, left. Remember how the drill sergeant hollered it, back in boot camp? When you were barely older than a child? “Lef, lef, lef-righ-lef.”

Take the right turning ahead and walk past the park and creek? Or the left, with just more neighborhood houses but with less traffic? Left, then. Cars are noisy. Too fast and uncaring. Tomorrow I’ll go right and walk through the park. Look forward to it: that park will have its new spring clothes on.

“Ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall, nighty-nine bottles of beer …”

Eventually, I walk-sing-march all the way home.

My muscles, head to toe, are loose and fully oxygenated. I’m breathing more deeply and much more slowly than when I started. My mind feels flushed and clean. It feels rested even though my body is tired.

But this … this is a good tired. It’s the kind of tired that means when I go to bed tonight, I’ll probably fall to sleep more easily, even though I hurt. I might even stay asleep most of the night. That happens so rarely now that I perceive it as a blessing. This kind of tired is a magnanimous gift.

I’ve been out to see the world today. I’ve breathed fresh air and I’ve seen flowers and felt the cool breeze on my skin. I’ve moved my entire body. I may still have rheumatoid disease, but today I put it where it belongs: behind the 16th bottle of beer on the wall; pitched right out of the rowboat; and left back on the battlefield when Johnny came marching home.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips moderator
    3 years ago

    All 60’s and 70’s here. I usually sing to myself and I know I am an excellent singer (to myself says my wife). I love music maybe next time I see you, we can do a duet? Freebird?

  • Wren moderator author
    3 years ago

    Only if you’re playing the guitar, Rick. ;o)

  • Eebtool
    3 years ago

    Oh, it feels so good.
    I hear where you are coming from and I here a different playlist of songs, mostly from the 80s & 90s. It is so good to know that you still are willing to get out and walk even with the stiffness. I am fortunate that my outings are runs and can last for an hour and a half. After a good hard outing that burns up all the stress and mind clutter, the hurt feels so good.

  • Wren moderator author
    3 years ago

    Hi, Eebtool,
    One day, I’ll work up to a run, I know it! How terrific that you can get out and run (RUN!) for 90 minutes at a pop, and yes, those running songs can make all the difference. You’re inspiring!
    Thanks for stopping in and commenting. :o)

  • Carla Kienast
    3 years ago

    What a lovely article! I have to admit that when I read the title I immediately remembered stories about dental fillings that picked up radio signals and that’s where those songs were originating! Walking has always helped me think and when I get back from my daily walk I feel energized physically but mentally as well. Enjoy the spring walking weather. And on tomorrow’s walk I can almost guarantee that (like you and Johnny and the ants) I’ll be marching and rowing and probably humming as well.

  • Wren moderator author
    3 years ago

    Hi, Carla!
    You’re so kind! I laughed at your reference to dental fillings and radio signals–it takes being of a certain age to “get” it, I think. But so far, all my songs come right out of mind and memory.
    I’m enjoying the cool weather so far, but it’s warming up quickly around here. Looks like we’ll hit the low 80s this weekend–and it will only go up from there, from now on. I’ll need those walking songs even more to help me block out the late spring and summer heat.
    Enjoy your walks, too! And thanks for stopping in, m’dear. 🙂

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