Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 29, 2007

You started trying it somewhere around two years of age. Evidently you’d been watching those big people doing it and decided it was time for you to learn. But it was a lot harder than it looked.

You fell forward and backward and sideways. You bumped your head and hit your side and banged your shoulder. You cried and screamed and grunted. What made it so hard was you actually had to fall forward and catch yourself. Fall forward and catch yourself. Fall forward and catch yourself. If you leaned forward too much, you went right on your face. If you didn’t lean enough, you fell right on your back.

Plus, there were all sorts of obstacles around. Rocking chairs and sofas and the dog and slick floors and coffee tables. But eventually, after all the bumps and crying and falling and holding on to anything solid, you learned how to do it. And after awhile, you didn’t even have to think about it anymore, for you had learned one of the oldest activities known to mankind. You had learned how to walk. And it opened all kinds of doors and pleasures.

Who can forget that first April day when your mom said you could go barefoot? You’d been wearing those suffocating shoes all winter long and those toes were just aching to feel some dirt between them. That first barefoot walk across cool springtime grass was just exhilarating.

There was something about the ground coming up to meet your bare skin that seemed wonderful and natural and fresh. It energized the soul and invigorated the heart. And every time you could – for the rest of the summer – you let those feet hit bare ground.

And as you grew up, there grew in you – almost unaware – an attraction for walking on the earth. Perhaps it came from a time -not that long ago – when most folks walked everywhere. Families walked to church and wives walked to the store.

Children walked to school and children walked from school. Farmers walked behind that mule all day long.

Families walked up and down peanut rows, pulling weeds. Kids walked to the woods to play and then walked back home. If you wanted to do anything or go anywhere or see anyone, you basically had to walk. Why, people could recognize others way off in the distance simply by their distinctive walk. It was their signature and part of their identity.

And there were some things that came along with that activity. You couldn’t be in much of a rush. Because you had to walk there. It almost forced you to figure out a way to enjoy the journey. You felt the ground beneath you and sensed the breeze in your face.

The world was alive to you and all your senses were engaged. There were no traffic lights and no traffic jams. No need to worry about the right radio station or if you had enough gas. Why, you didn’t even need a driver’s license, no matter your age.

All this to say maybe we’ve lost something. Maybe getting from here to there as fast as possible is not always the most important thing. Maybe how we get from here to there is just as important.

So the next time you get a chance, try taking a walk. Just for the heck of it. You didn’t do all that work when you were 2 years old for nothing, did ya’?

REX ALPHIN is a farmer, businessman and contributing columnist for The Tidewater News. His e-mail address is rexalphin@aol.com.