By   Maida Korte

“I’ve developed into quite a swan. I’m one of those people that will probably look better and better as I get older – until I drop dead of beauty.” ― Rufus Wainwright

I didn’t become an athlete until after my four children were born.  I found that smashing a tennis ball across a court was in keeping with my personality.  The focus necessary to watch a small yellow ball hit the strings of a racket strung to a measurable precision was something I needed and so I took to it naturally.  As a non-professional dancer all of my growing up years, I also discovered that moving my body within a strict boundary where rules reigned supreme was an easy adjustment.  I played with aggression for over two decades, entering competitions, winning some, even teaching my daughters how to hit a good solid forehand and backhand.  But the years have passed and I am transitioning again to a sport of my naming.  I have tried several and all have ended badly – so this time I am careful to choose something with staying power.  I need a sport that allows me to be competitive (oh yes, I am that) change outfits (very important since I would be giving up darling little skirts), see improvement that is measurable, and a place and time to think, ponder, and organize the crowded spaces of my brain.   I am now a Walker of Sidewalks. 

Where to begin.  After my tennis years I took several physical routes from running in 5 and 10 kilometer races to women’s body building.  At the time ear buds did not exist and so I could not listen to talks on how to enjoy Opera or take a French lesson or listen to a podcast on how electricity wants to go to the ground (why?) so I got bored easily and running became plodding.  I then tried the women’s body-building arena.  I know.  It was my mid-wife’s idea, which was something she did in her childless spare time – but I had four daughters and well, never mind.  Let’s just say that when I thought I was in great shape, a women’s body builder trainer told me that I had seven pounds of fat on my stomach alone and to come back in one week once that was gone.  True story.  So, I did one competition where I prepared a routine to Billy Joel wailing:

You may be right

I may be crazy

But it just may be

A lunatic you’re looking for.

 The judges were not swayed by this verbiage and so ended my career on stage.

            When my girls were all little they would join in with me as I did workouts on tape with 80’s music playing in the background and my legs kicking out furiously behind me.  My daughters and I laugh as we remember those days – think Jane Fonda meets mid-western mother of four.   Today I would tear something important.  No video went with this and we didn’t own a television anyway – just a cassette player that gave a satisfying sound as you clicked the tape in and slammed the little plastic door shut.  Kick and strut and march and drop and bend and touch and reach and stretch.  I think what I gained was a certain middle aged limber and the self-satisfaction that comes from a crisp start and stop to a synthesized staccato beat.

            As my girls all entered their teen years and colleges called I became a workout reactionary.  I would suddenly realize that I had not worked for oh say, 3 years?  So I would run to a gym, join immediately and work out furiously for 7 weeks. Then life would happen as it always does and a young and nubile membership coach would call me leaving a message that she had not seen me at the gym for 98 days.  Could she help by providing me with a free personal training session?  I would rather die.  Politely declining I would sneak into the gym at off hours in order to show commitment.  Rather than be embarrassed we ultimately moved out of the area. 

            As the girls each married and grand-babies became the loves of my life, I began to see a subtle but noticeable change in my blustering through life and I’m not talking about the discovery that leggings are not pants.  I am talking about a clumsiness factor that took me by surprise.  I have always done everything too fast so I blamed falling out of my husband’s truck on a regular basis, missing the running board completely, to my zip zip get it done creed but with no consideration for slowing down.  Andy’s question asked on one particularly gorgeous afternoon while marching through a darling little town, “Will we never saunter?” did leave me speechless for a few moments of consideration.  On this same day I entered a shop and crashed into a cabinet spilling the scented candles stacked neatly by the door Andy murmured, “My Swan,” but with no other judgment. My good sense of spatial relationships was waning all because my nimbleness, that I had taken for granted for all of my life, was evaporating at an albeit slow pace, but I could feel it.  Is this aging? 

            In one last attempt at incorporating a youthful work-out strategy into my life, I signed up for six individual sessions with a pseudo marine boot camp gym that simulates, to my suburban sensibilities, a war zone environment.  From large iron kettle balls that would train me for combat in Afghanistan to ropes that would teach me to scale rutted out embankments I was pumped.  On the third session I broke my pelvis. 

            Injury can produce new-found wisdom and personal reflection and so I began to consider that walking is not only essential but not to be taken for granted.  By racing through life, bounding down stairways, careening around corners, I had insulted the simple act of walking.  Always one to make amends I wanted to discover what walking had to offer and I found out that there are mall walkers, woods amblers, hillside strollers, track strutters, trudgers, plodders, boot clad clumpers and jaunty gliders.  I needed to know who I was in this mix so I tried them all.  First I didn’t like the shoes and couldn’t drive regularly to the mall, and the woods made my hair frizz and I live in the mid-west where hills are a precious commodity, and the one time I went to a track I was told that there was a mall nearby and thank you very much.  I needed something with a no excuses mantra and low and behold right out in front of our house is a sidewalk.  I went out and stood on it blinking in the sun much like the children in Dune taking the elevator up to see the sky.  Yes, this could work!  Shoes laced, yoga pants clad, since proper attire is essential to all of life’s endeavors, and my husband’s contribution of way-cool ear buds and I was off – down sidewalks of undulating paths of formed concrete, purposeful and meandering, leading me to necessary self-reflection that also allows me to go further and farther and faster – something I will never fully be able to shed. 

7 Responses to “Walking

  • Awesome Post. Very entertaining. I enjoy your self-depracating humor, Maida. Makes for an enjoyable read.

    You didn’t mention that you beat Gordie Rock in Grade School……and he was only the fastest, best-looking athlete in the school!

  • Kathleen Elliott
    4 years ago

    I am so grateful that you have also chosen the mental/emotional/spiritual activity of blogging. It is a highlight of my day every time I see and open “Maida Says” …

  • Wendy Larson
    4 years ago

    I really enjoyed this!

  • Peggy Sorenson
    4 years ago

    Thank you Maida! A great reminder to keep moving! I love reading your blog and hearing your memories of raising four daughters! ❤️

  • I loved this Maids! You are a master of knitting your words into a beautiful tapestry. What a delight to hear from you again! I remember your body building days.

  • Cynthia Baran
    3 years ago

    Alright! Definitely put me in the mood for a walk today! Where I live there are no sidewalks, so I am a middle-of-the-road walker, allowing me to move side to side as traffic demands. Enjoy!!

  • Beautifully written dear heart loving you and your family from Michigan Joe and Beth

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