The hills are alive, okay, not really hills, it’s one hill and if it feels alive because it seems to change or at least my experience of it changes. Read on.
I face the same hill nearly every day that I leave my home on my walk to Ashmont Station. At the top of the hill, there is a small church, Calvary Baptist Church. Whenever I make it to the church, I always think, “I made it to Calvary.”*
Some days I bound up the hill almost unaware of the experience because I’m emeshed in my thoughts and not concentrating on the walk. Other days, every step is felt as the church and the hill’s crest seem to recede no matter how many steps I take toward them. Still other days, the hill is a sensory adventure as I look at the flowers and vegetables blooming and growing in front of the large Victorian houses that line the street.
There are decisions to make:
- Shall I walk on the left side or the right side of the street today?
- Shall I continue past Peabody Square and walk all the way up to Washington Street then come back down to the station?
- Shall I avoid the hill altogether and take a detour – going left on Florida street and walking four streets over, then up to Dot Ave., then back right and down to Ashmont Station. (Going this way will take me pass the small tub filled with gold fish in front of one of the brownstones where I always pause and count the fish.)
Most days, I do not avoid the hill – my legs have gotten stronger as a result.
There are days when I am aware of each breath I take; days when I cannot breathe through my nose because the air is so cold that it hurts; days when I breath so heavily that I am angry with myself. (Why is the hill such a challenge today? Why is this hill ever a challenge, goodness knows I’ve walked it enough times that it should be a piece of cake!) Still other days when I do meditative breathing – in through the nostrils (2, 3, 4) and out through the mouth (2, 3, 4).
No matter what the experience of the hill has been on any given day, I embrace the feeling of accomplishment I have every time I’ve made it up that hill again.
A few times each year, I expand the challenge and walk the opposite way down Ashmont Street over to Neponset Ave. Turning right, I walk a few blocks down to the Pope’s Hill neighborhood to S. Monroe Terrace, which has a monster hill that starts immediately from Neponset and gives no grace until you’ve reached its top and magnificent views. Walking that hill is always a bear for me: will I make it? Turn back you fool! Nah, I can do this!. I keep my head down, focusing on each block of pavement until I get to the top.
Another challenge is to walk over Adams Street to the playing field and up the sixty-plus steps to Train Street (I think that’s the name of it). I pretend to be Rocky Balboa.
Having managed these hills for the past six years, I was surprised, last summer, when I walked the path around the golf course in Franklin Park and breezed up the slopes. Years ago, when I walked Franklin Park almost daily, I hated those slopes. I used to kick nuts and/or rocks all the way to take my mind off that part of the path. Now, those slopes have become minor (or at least they were last summer. )
Minor or major, the hills and slopes don’t change. What changes is my perspective, my stride, and my learning not to avoid them but to take them one step at a time. I can’t have the incredible feeling of accomplishment or the view from the peaks** unless I complete the climb. And so it is, with other areas of life.
(*A few strides past Calvary across the street and there’s the magnificent architecture of All Saints Church of Dorchester. I hear that the All Saints’ Choir of Men and Boys is magnificent. I will go hear them one day.)
(**Hey, I know you true hikers are laughing at my mini-jaunts. You have your mountains and I have my…my, hills, slopes, whatever.)
If you love this post, you may also love an earlier one I wrote, “I Love Walking in Dorchester.”