Many years ago, on the morning after a particularly heavy snow, I had to go for a medical appointment at the hospital. It wasn’t an emergency, but it wasn’t the kind of appointment easily missed and rescheduled, so my friend offered to drive me in his four-wheel-drive behemoth truck, which I gratefully accepted. I told him I would walk the way home.
It wasn’t too far, just four miles, and I had good boots, a warm coat, and a love of the outdoors. After the appointment, I emerged from the hospital worried and fearful—not because of something said in that one appointment, but because of all the trips I’d had to make there, the heavy glass doors I had to push, the elevator that rode up slowly, the long hallway of doors that all looked the same. And because of all the rest: the fear of trouble happening, a kind of fear that emerges when a doctor tells you that you are at a higher risk for something you don’t want to have. I was lucky because I didn’t have that something, but I remember that on that snowy day I worried more that one day I would.
And then I walked.
I walked on the main road, out of the hospital’s reach, and past the university buildings on my right, past the downtown with its brick fronts and boutiques, though that day the town lay quiet, asleep in snow. I walked and I breathed and I looked at the white on the roofs and the driveways and the trees. The snow bent down the branches.
I felt the chill in my lungs, which I liked, which I craved. It reminded me of the place where I was from, the cold that had made me who I was. I trudged past people’s homes, their histories hidden behind doors and shutters, some of their stories easier than mine, but some so much harder than what I would ever know. I walked past covered cars and blankets of lawns, past forks in the road and stoplights and stop signs.
I could look back or look forward. I could remain or I could walk.
And so I walked and I walked, and even after I’d turned the key and pushed open my front door, I kept on walking, the day after, and then the next.