The Walk that Didn’t Count

“Keep on talking.
Keep on walking.
The dream is bigger than you can understand.
The vision may be yet for an appointed time.
But if you keep on walking,
you are going to wind up in the right place,
and you are going to be right on time.”
-F. Nolan Ball

It was a quiet, blissful evening.  The stars weren’t bitter with harsh winter chill. I put the leash on the dog, much to her frantic – almost panicked – delight.  I stepped into the cold night air and tugged my hat down a bit more over my ears, knowing full well it would slide right back up on my ginormous head.

Earlier that week, I had jumped in the pool and drowned my Fitbit.  Tonight, I left my phone on the kitchen counter.  This walk wouldn’t count.  It wouldn’t matter.  Tonight, nothing was counting or charting or recording or adding anything up.

“What are you doing next?” The inevitable, inescapable question of a world watching a life that has begun to leave a mark in some way floated into my thoughts from the voices earlier that week.

“Next?”  The word echoed across the empty stage of a mind full of blank canvases.

Don’t track me tonight.  Nobody has to know where I’m going or how far or how much I’ve done or my heart rate.  I won’t even know.  I will just begin here and end up back here.  As I have always done before.  One way or another.  Nobody asking what the next goal is, or the next achievement will be, or the next, or the next, or the next.

Don’t fill my mind with music, tonight.  No Audible.  They can wait.  I long for nothing but the songs and the narrative already within me.  The ancient syllables of prayers not yet heard; the pounding longing of hope and passion and endurance and faith and charity.  The dancing, spinning cascade of whatever brightness or challenge is yet within.

The sidewalk slipped by, carrying the streets and the lit houses and the dark night by my quiet footfalls.  I watched the world outside and imprinted it with my world inside – assigning names and stories and feelings.

I walked and walked – without a goal but with a purpose.  A wanderer but not lost.  I walked past Romeo, always standing on his balcony with his cigarette, texting.  The carpenter working in the dark on the roof of the house that had to be done as soon as possible, I passed him by too.  There was no time or space or anything.  I didn’t mind the creeping, telltale cold.  I kept walking.

Until I stopped on the street by a paint peeling house with one light on.  A bare bulb cast a revealing glow on the bare walls of a naked room.  But from this most unlikely harbor drifted the sound of a piano; a song and a sound of something other than winter that transformed the house it sat inside from run down and in need, to home.  The fingers traced and re-traced the patterns over the keys.  On and on, sometimes repeating the patterns until they were smooth.

I stood and I listened.  Until I was numb with cold.  Until my heart had returned to resting.  While my dog looked up at me with questions and confused eyes.

There is no goal, tonight, just purpose.  Not tonight.  Nothing matters.  Nothing counts, brown dog.  It’s you and me and the stars and the most unlikely concert hall of this street corner.

The music continued.  The light glowed.  The stars blinked in the distant blackness.  The hushed whisper of tears began behind my eyes. I knew that I was in exactly the right place.  At precisely the right time.  Everything was as perfect in this moment as it had been at any time in my life, ever.

Who could ask for anything more than that?

I wouldn’t trade it.  Not for any of the achievements in all the world.

That’s what I want next – whether I am taking my dog for a walk or swimming the English Channel – I want to always be in exactly the right place at precisely the right time.

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