November 15, 2013
I am once again walking Aquatic Park. It is the easiest somewhat natural location within walking distance from my apartment which I can navigate without getting lost. Invariably, then, unless I’m at the gym I get my exercise here. As I near a turn on the sidewalk which takes me through a paved, even stretch of trail past a playground, I see Caoilte up ahead. I move to catch up with him, so we’re walking next to each other.
“Hi,” I say in pictures. I would give the hand sign for greeting but just now a manifest person walks by us.
Caoilte beams at me. “You’re walking tall,” he says, light dancing in his eyes.
“Of course I am,” I affirm proudly, smiling at him.
“Do you still want to run with me?” he asks expectantly.
“Sure!” I say, honestly ready to try anything at least once. I do however send Caoilte a picture as a bit of a warning that I have terrible running form, am extremely out of shape as far as running goes, and have been told, with special thanks to patriarchy, that I run “worse than a girl.” Some of this is hardly my fault. I can’t practice running on my own, because it’s not safe to run with a guide dog. For obvious reasons guide dogs are trained to walk ahead of their blind partnered humans, and it’s too easy through the jarring motion of running while holding onto the dog’s harness and moving quickly to pull the dog off course while simultaneously getting ahead of him. That situation can be rather dangerous. Hence why I run in starts and stops lest I get ahead of my dog, and move like I’m expecting to take a nose dive at the ground at any second.
Caoilte thinks this over for a while. Finally he says, “If you run tall like you move when walking tall, you’ll have a smooth motion over the ground. As long as you can see me in front of you, and if you keep in step, you won’t trip on anything or fall. That way you won’t need to run as if you fear a lack of self-protection—keeping your head tucked in and leaning forward so you don’t get hurt makes sense when you’re alone, but slows you down, is more effort on your body while you are going a distance. If you get too far ahead of your dog, too many times, we can walk fast instead.”
This all sounds like an excellent idea to me, even if it’s nothing I have done before, so we take off and have a go at it. I have literally followed in the footprints of otherworld beings before, in those instances on hikes, and in doing so have avoided getting lost, stubbing my toes on rocks and twigs, or veering off the path. It is easy for me then to keep Caoilte in sight, attempt to not run in the somewhat defensive manner I usually do, and place my feet where he does.
I run, easily, for five minutes. Then it gets difficult. Caoilte is deliberately running at my pace, rather than his own, but I haven’t run anywhere since 1996, and unfortunately, that’s noticeable. I am out of breath and a bit lightheaded, and the world is a bit blurry. I keep running for about three more minutes anyway, and then Caoilte stops and turns around. “This is new for you,” he says, ”You look very tired. We should walk the rest of the way.”
I think to myself that yes, there’s a part of me who’d love to switch back to walking now. It’s a lovely idea. The rest of me is not having any of it. Tired? Me? Giving up? Walking? No way. “Thanks,” I reply, “But really I’m fine. I’ll keep going. I really want to try.”
Caoilte’s eyes darken into a look that is serious and stern. “You’re not fine. No amount of tenacity will ever make up for refusing to be honest with yourself and others. You have no need to prove that you can persevere. You have need to learn to care for yourself. We’re walking the rest of the way.”
“I understand,” I say accepting this, and I have no need to argue. I think over what he has said as we fall into step with each other, watching the water and the trees and the crows overhead, and the people we pass by. I realize that we are communicating in the silence without pictures, without language. We do not speak, and yet we are each understood by the other. This is what it is to be seen. It requires no explanations, justifications, or sequences of thoughts to be who we are. I realize this is what connection, genuine connection, is all about, and it can only exist in the presence of authentic honesty and the living of the truth we find within ourselves. I understand beyond thought, because it is now within my experience. I grow.