I love walking to and from my 7:30 pm Japanese class through campus, quiet at night. Many people I know extol the virtues of the easy pace, that which allows the colors and shapes of buildings and lampposts to slowly bob past with calm amiability, which allows for deep breaths and idle gazing at the sky and stars, and which doesn’t rush life like walking fast does. I have heard complaints countless times against fast-walkers who don’t appreciate their surroundings and who care about time too much.

I, however, find myself on that latter side of the argument, in the shunned group of speedwalkers. Until now I had always wondered, faintly bothered, why people rarely talk about how wonderful a fast walk is. I personally enjoy them immensely. The problem was I couldn’t really say why, or convince anyone else, without using reasons I found depressingly mundane for the wonderful act: “it saves time.” “Because I can wake up 10 minutes later that way…”

But walking briskly back from Frist in the cool of night tonight I felt with my mind and swinging hips the reason that had been in hiding. Maybe you know what I am talking about.

I bound up the steps in front of Frist with a late-meal Snapple in my hand. My backpack is light; I only carry a folder and a notebook for class. After years in high school lugging hard cover math textbooks to and from school this featherweight backpack is a luxury. I turn left. My feet know better than I do where I am going. Then starts the swinging of stretched legs, the sound of my soles softly tapping on the pavement. I can feel the economy of my movement, how I am making my way efficiently without increasing my breathing, heartbeat steady and strong.

The wind is stronger now, but my high collar zipped in the front feels cozy and cool. I am wearing only a thin pullover but because I am pumping it the cold only brushes my surface, like the lamplight I walk under. It cannot touch my core, not at this pace. I pass people I know, and say hello. I pass people I don’t, and smile. Steps approach me and I lightly tap down them like I am dancing. I see the stars up there, I see that chipmunk run under the bush, I see the earbuds accidently dropped on the ground and the dude with his friends debating whether to play finders keepers. Hey, there’s Roderigo from PSC’s Othello. She falls back into the shadows while a kid speeding on a bicycle zooms out to capture my wonder—man, that must feel good, his jacket just flapping away.

I am just about home. Beep in the door and up three flights of stairs—where did this power come from? The cold still hangs about my ears as I take on those steps. Where did this energy come from?

It was all in the walk, taking me from one place to another without requiring me to think how to get there, the way it is once you get used to living someplace. In a fast walk, your legs fly you to where you want to go while your mind flies beyond to wherever it will, invigorated by the oxygen. Slow walkers might say the same, but let them. I’ve had my fair share of pleasant strolls. But tell me there is not something sweet in a brisk gait. Let the mind go, let the body, and what’s left is the bare human spirit striding along in its element.

In a fast walk, Mary Gilstad’s legs fly you to where you want to go while your mind flies beyond to wherever it will, invigorated by the Nassau Weekly.

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