Text Story Collection
I found in mid-February that my first day on the trail would be a 25 mile day. I panicked a little—can my body actually do that? I trust that my body can perform in rehearsal and on stage week after week, but this stamina is of a different sort than what it takes to walk long distances. Also, at the end of hard day of rehearsal, there are things like a warm bath and soft bed waiting for me—not so on the trail.
I started doing short hikes to begin building my stamina for spending long periods of time on my feet. My dad and I set out in mid-March on a 12 mile hike through Patapsco State Park in Maryland, and I expected to crawl back to the car. But it wasn't so bad. So I thought: next weekend, I'll do more. I live in College Park, Maryland, which is close to some small parks. For the sake of increasing my mileage, I decided to walk from my house to Greenbelt Park, do a trail in the park, and walk back. The total distance would be 14 miles.
I left my house and walked fast. I set a goal for myself to walk at a 4 mile per hour pace to see how quickly I could cover distance. And I loved it. I clipped along Route 1, my feels striking the pavement with assurance and speed: I am walking fast! I am strong! I am poweful! I am smart and resourceful! I have food and water! 14 miles is nothing! I will do 18 miles today at least! These joyful exclamations went on for a while. The sun felt great, the sky was blue, there was a nice breeze and I was walking.
It's all fun and games and pride until your feet start to hurt. And my feet started to hurt. After 8 miles, I felt heat building on the inside of each heel and I knew the blisters were coming. No one likes pain, but this was what I did this walk for: to see that I could be uncomfortable, and still keep walking. After 10 miles at a brisk pace, I stopped to stretch on the park's trail and could hardly pick up my leg. I was alternately groaning and then laughing at myself trying to use a bench to balance as I stretched out my legs. Then I got mad. It was too soon to stop! I have to keep walking. My pace was slower now, and my mind had no sway over my body anymore. It would walk at the pace it wanted to (slow) all the way back to my apartment and every step hurt.
Crossing the exit ramps took much more focus and care than when I set out hours earlier. There would be no dash across between fast cars. There would be patient waiting for a long enough break between vehicles so that I could cross slowly. My body was tired, I was hungry and thirsty, but that didn't change the ultimate goal of the day: walk away from home, then walk back. In a neighborhood that cuts between University Boulevard and Route 1, I realized I had two miles to go. I had walked 12 miles already. I could do two more.
I got back to my apartment, and sat down at the kitchen table. I untied my shoes. I gingerly wiggled them off each foot. I peeled off a damp sock and looked at the bulbous blister on the inside of my swollen heel. I did the same on the other foot. My body was so stiff. I hadn't taken into account before I set out that walking the bulk of my miles on concrete was going to be harder on my body than walking on a trail for that distance. I stretched out, laid on the couch, and started to wonder what it would be like to be this tired, this beat, and then have to sleep on the ground, and get up and do it again the next day.
What I had to do the next day was go to rehearsal. I woke up the next morning sore and blistered. I pulled on tennis shoes and worked out a way of walking on my toes that didn't hurt my heels, and wondered if walking like that had been the worst idea the day before a rehearsal. I told Cassie about my walk while we warmed up. She said: let's make a dance about it. I told her the full story of my day, from waking up, to going to sleep that night. She instructed me to tell it using very literal physical gestures, and she filmed it. We then watched the video to begin to pull out interesting moments to sequence. My four-hour walk translated to a 14 minute long story to Cassie, which we then turned into a 2-minute dance. My walk and its translation into a dance mirrors the much larger process Cassie begins soon: walking 500 miles to create a new stage work. You can see the first draft of the dance we made here.