Walking is a classic activity for meditation. Any repetitive task will do it, keeping the body busy on something so boring that the mind detaches and sails free on its own course. You can wash dishes, or pull weeds, or rake leaves. I walk, when I get the chance.
Earlier this summer when I was out on a walk, a gnat started buzzing around me and seemed to want to stay with me as I walked. When is it going to give up and go home? I wondered. Then I wondered if it had a home, or a concept of home. Bees return to the hive, ants to the colony, wasps to the nest. But which insects have “homes” as we conceive them? And which ones just go where they think the food is, or follow the wind, and just keep going?
That’s where my brain can go when I give it permission to wander, when my legs are busy keeping my walking pace and there is no oncoming traffic.
Sometimes I can walk for half a mile before I realize I’m keeping pace with a song that’s been playing in my head since I started, and only at that moment do I realize what that song is. (Really? “Puttin’ on the Ritz”? Super-duper!)
Recently my mind has been constructing physics problems for me as I walk. They aren’t problems I can actually solve, but apparently my brain, in its free time, enjoys setting them up.
Beth is walking home at a constant pace of 4 miles per hour. She is one mile due east from home. If the road on which she is walking has a 55 mile per hour speed limit and the same road east of her house has a 30 mph speed limit for one mile and 45 mph east of there, and the road due south of her house has a 40 mph speed limit for one mile and 55 mph south of that point, at least how far away must any approaching cars be if she reaches home before they pass her house?
(20 points. Include all units.)
When I get the chance to take a bike ride, this becomes
A runner passes Beth’s house as she is pumping up her bike tire. She leaves her driveway ten minutes later and passes the runner at the one-mile mark after riding for five minutes. If she rides to the end of the road (2.5 more miles), turns around, and rides back along the same path she has taken, how quickly would she have to ride to make sure she passed the runner again before he turned off on Road B (two miles from her driveway) or Road C (three miles from her driveway)? If he did not turn off on either of these roads, where would Beth pass him if they each moved at the constant rates they had established in the first mile?
(50 points. 5-point bonus for converting to Greenwich Mean Time.)
Nope, I never saw him again. Or maybe I passed him and just didn’t notice because my brain was far too busy trying to establish the parameters of the story problem.
Now that the kids are in school and I have a place I need to be during those same hours (more about that next week), I need to find another route to walk. Fortunately, I have a very accessible 1.4-mile loop to walk, as well as steep hills outside and multiple flights of stairs inside.
Just one more flight, I’m almost there….