Heaven is Under Our Feet

     Thoreau said:  "Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads."  Walking yesterday and today I have been feeling this viscerally. I've covered about 12 miles between the two days, breaking in a new pair of shoes, experimenting with different layers of clothing and socks, trying to avoid blisters and learning how to treat the ones I get. (helpful information here about that) Spring is such a great time to take long walks, and it is stunningly gorgeous here in Bucks County, PA.  Blazing azaleas, pink and white dogwoods, irises and tulips blooming -- and green absolutely everywhere, in every shade.  William Penn knew a good thing when he saw one.

     I walk along the Delaware Canal, just two blocks from my house. It's a wonderful state park that runs from Bristol to Easton, and offers a beautiful setting for exercise year-round.  In spring one has to be aware of the geese who nest along its banks, and when I spot a sweet  goose family with its mama, papa, and fuzzy yellow goslings, I am cautious. These geese are hell bent on protecting their young ones and often hiss at me as I pass by; they will attack if they feel threatened.

     I have been considering how natural it is to want to protect the younger generation, how strong the survival instinct is in us, so much so that we would kill to stop any serious threat to our child.  Yet we don't fight for the planet on behalf of the next generations. How can we be more fierce on their behalf?

     Walking along a canal means having to turn around and come back the way you came.  Some fundamental part of me does not like this. I'd rather walk in a loop, I suppose.  There is something difficult psychologically about that moment where I turn around and start walking back, knowing that I am only halfway done. I almost always hear "only" halfway in my head, not "already" halfway. Luckily, it is also the point at which the endorphins usually kick in. I had actually forgotten about how fabulous endorphins are, as they flood my system after I have walked a few miles. I begin to feel sore or tired or bored or I tighten up and want to stop but there's nowhere to stop so I keep going, and then boom!--there's that nice "all-over" feeling, that sense of integration, in spite of how hard my muscles and bones are working. Then the walking does itself, and when I am walking along the canal I feel myself flowing, as the water is also very slowly drifting along.  F. M. Alexander said, "The right thing does itself," and, like William Penn, he was really on to something there.

     I thought of F.M. today when I encountered a local great blue heron. I have a special connection with this bird, since the first time we met. A few days after we moved here I went out for a walk, harboring grave doubts about what we had just done to our lives by leaving Brooklyn for Bucks. As I rounded a bend in the towpath, I came upon this heron standing on one leg and instantly realized why I had chosen to relocate. Today when I saw the heron on the path ahead, I slowed down, fearing I would scare it. But as I crept closer, the bird remained still, until I was mere inches away. Our eyes met and I watched as it quite deliberately and delicately raised one foot and stepped away like the world's most elegant dancer, its long neck a reminder of "up."

     Such diversity of life, such strength and beauty all around.  Careful stepping of the bird, former dinosaur. ancient eye, primal connection, reminder of the interconnectedness of everything, reminder that we ought to step carefully too.

     May I walk with a fierce protection for the web of life in my heart.  May I be grateful for Heaven under my feet.

I welcome your positive wishes, prayers, and good cheer for me and everyone with the Earth Quaker Action Team as we embark on the Green Walk for Jobs and Justice, this Monday, April 30.