Walking Meditation

How we spend our days is of course how we spend our lives.
— Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

Leavenworth, WA is a small town with a giant, Bavarian-themed personality, nestled in the craggy central Cascades. So complete is Leavenworth's dedication to its theme, you could be excused for believing that you had been dropped into the Alps somewhere. Leavenworth is a former timber town that managed to reinvent itself in the 1960s, when two enterprising Seattle businessmen lobbied the town to adopt a theme. The town responded in go-big-or-go-home fashion; today even the local Napa falls in line. I landed here for a house sit and promptly fell in love with the entire place.

Nearly every view from town includes a view of the Icicle, the top of which was still covered in snow when I left in the 2nd week of May. Even the home in which I spent nearly a month had views of snow-capped peaks in the distance and great big evergreen-coated cliffs rising up out of the valley bottom. The valleys for miles around are covered with pear and apple trees, which exploded into bloom during my stay.

If how we spend our days is truly how we spend our lives, then my time in Leavenworth reflects a way of life that I can get behind long term. I slowed down, walked miles and miles every day, rediscovered actual cooking, made time for yoga, slept hard almost every night, mowed the lawn, and watched dozens of birds negotiate the feeders. Coyotes loped across the backyard toward a deer carcass they were feeding on, sat in the neighbors field at dusk, and watched us from on high as we climbed through the woods.

Spring was imminent when I arrived and unfurled in a carpet of bright yellow Balsamroot, followed by purple Lupines, dark purple Trillium, Mountain Sweet Cicely, blue and purple Vetch, Blue Stickseed, the tiny flowers of Star Solomon's Seal, Barestem Desert Parsley, Oregon Windflower, Pokeweed, and Snowberry. The air was suddenly filled with the scent of freshly mowed grass, while tulips pushed their way toward the sun.

After a week I had a few favorite spots to walk: the Fish Hatchery, Waterfront Park (perfect for rinsing muddy dogs and finding deer peeking out through the trees), Leavenworth Ski Hill, and the National Forest roads near the house I stayed in. I walked so much that I revved up the plantar fasciitis I thought I'd left behind, but the act of walking felt so good that I countered 5 or 6 miles with a lot of yoga at night, and managed to keep myself moving. I listened to podcasts as I moved along the trails, walking until I reached the end of the trail or the story, and then starting on something new.

Walking became a meditation over those short weeks, one which I have since lost as a daily practice. It feels as though there's a great big hole in my days, but it's so easy to let the crazy pace of travel (or real life) get in the way. Yoga is on the back seat too, which I'm planning to pick up again as soon as I have more than 2 days strung together in one particular place. I could do it now, but there's something about the cadence of a more daily life that helps to anchor the habit.

I've been asked many, many times if I have found a place in which I could live outside of Maine. Leavenworth is that place for me. There was something magnetic there that kept pulling me back into the woods, pulling in breath after breath of clear mountain air, talking idly to the dog, and watching the water rush over rocks or around a lazy bend. Part of what captivated me was that in a funny way, it felt so much like home. Everything is on a larger scale, but there's a similar feel to western Maine in particular.

Even the small town, where cheesy souvenir shops and local artisans sit side-by-side with wineries, coffee shops, and beer gardens reminded me of home. Maybe it's the reliance on tourists that was so familiar, but more than once I imagined myself there, part of the place, with trails out my back door in every direction.