I love to walk. I enjoy seeing the grass, the flowers, people’s yards and gardens, and inhaling the air. It’s the journey that appeals, not the destination.
I’m no athlete and have never been particularly strong or fast. I don’t run or jog, but I have always walked. It has been an enjoyment since childhood, and I credit the start of this lifelong practice—geeky as it might sound—with having read “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” as a child.
For a fourth-grader who wasn’t much bigger than a hobbit, the idea of being a small person who walked vast distances was enormously appealing, even empowering. Think of Bilbo telling Frodo in the quiet days at Bag End: “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door….You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to. Do you realize that this is the very path that goes through Mirkwood, and that if you let it, it might take you to the Lonely Mountain or even further and to worse places?” This appealed to me highly: the idea of danger, adventure, and unfamiliar scenery. After all, the hobbits in Tolkien’s stories walked not only to the Lonely Mountain, but to Mordor as well, while barefoot.
So each time I stepped outside my door to circle the neighborhood of my childhood home, or to explore Cherokee Park nearby, I imagined I was Bilbo. Simultaneously, I was also Frodo, and I was Sam, setting off for parts unknown, a short and invisible sword by my side. It was very thrilling.
And because I never failed to imagine this scenario when setting off on a walk, I inadvertently conditioned myself to feel a jolt of excitement each time I went out the door. Even today, in my middle age, it’s still a treat to set off on a long walk. Each walk is an adventure. And eventually I’ll find the dragon!