Notes from the Tow Path

By the time the turkey comes out of the oven I will have concluded my summer project: Strolls with Stuart. You may remember that at the start of the summer I invited you to join me for a walk in one of a few gorgeous places in this stunning place we call home. My last walk was this week.

I wanted to report to you about my walks. I believe more than thirty folks walked, strolled, or hiked with me. I had a few repeat customers, including my wife. I learned a lot about you from walking beside you. Some of you can really move! In the heat of July and August, I needed a shower after I returned to my car. Others like a slower pace, which was also fine by me. The slower we went, the more I took in: an overlook of the Delaware River near the bridge that crosses the canal by the bend in the river, the numerous neat houses that dot the tow path, and several peeks at God’s furry creatures going about their business.

One thing that pleased me was the depth of conservations I enjoyed on my walks with you. In many instances, I walked beside people I’ve known, in some cases, for more than two decades and I heard things I never knew before about my friends. There is something powerful happens when you take an hour, outside, to talk without interference of cellphones, laptops, TV’s or work.

I am reminded of an earthy but great line by the late poet and author and funeral home director, Thomas Lynch. His award-winning book, The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade, was distributed to the cast of television series Six Feet Under by writer-director Alan Ball as a reference point for how they should view the funeral profession.  Thomas Lynch spoke of his friendship with Alan Ball, "We had a little correspondence when Six Feet Under was coming out. He [Alan Ball] wrote to me at one point that he had landed on the formula for his filming. He said, 'I know you know of this, I think I may have stolen it. Once you put a dead guy in the room, you can talk about anything'. Which is exactly the way it works.”

Deep listening expands the spirit.

There were no dead guys along the tow path this summer, but I experienced lots of good listening. Author Sue Patton Thoele wrote this, “Deep listening is miraculous for both listener and speaker. When someone receives us with open-hearted, non-judging, intensely interested listening, our spirits expand.” A beautiful, quiet setting plus time with good people adds up to a spirit expanding experience.

Strolls with Stuart are suspended for the winter months. There’s always next spring!