A Call To Walk: Wild Dream Walks
Posted by Nicole Huguenin on Jul 24, 2014
Walking has always had its place in my life. At times, providing the quietest place to reﬂect and get lost in my own fantasies, at others a means to bring awareness to a cause I support. Mostly, the act of walking has been my most trusted friend, providing the space to wonder and play when for one reason or another I am feeling disconnected, stuck, or frustrated. You could say that since age ten, walking has unknowingly been my daily practice of inner transformation, much like yoga and meditation are for others.
More recently, walking has assumed a much bigger role in my life. A little over a year ago, after thirteen years as a teacher and educator, I abruptly took a month off. Disappearing from my hometown of San Francisco, I traveled to a city where I knew no one and had no other means of transportation beyond my own two feet. For most of the month, I walked 4 to 5 miles a day, in stark contrast to 60-hour work weeks and trafﬁc, back home.
During that month, my days were spent walking for hours on end, contemplating anything from quantum physics to the groundhogs that popped up along the path. Slowing down like this served to reconnect me, as walking has always done, to my creativity, imagination, and deep love for nature and other people, yet I still felt a longing for something more. My original plan was for a month off, however as I hit the last days of that month, I could feel the world starting to speed up again, with my thoughts returning to the quickness of a transactional world, fueled even more by the return of my daily coffee run habit.
Meeting a Woman with Red Gloves
On one such run, I grabbed my to-go cup and started to leave when a loud voice inside me screamed, “Stop! Slow down now.” I’ve heard this voice inside me before and on this day, for the ﬁrst time in many years, I listened. I turned around looking for a seat and the only one available was next to an older lady, sitting peacefully with her nice red gloves stacked next to her purse.
I smiled at her and we began to chat about the snowy weather, about Boulder, and eventually about teaching. The conversation hit a natural pause and I heard her take a deep breath. She looked in my eyes and asked me if she could share her one and only wish for the world with me. I said of course, and this sweet woman started to share how she had written a book about walking in nature. Her wish was to have this book spread throughout the world so that every person who has ever suffered, as she has, knows that by using nature as a metaphor one will always have a friend and a common language to use with others.
This woman, Diane, had tears in her eyes as she opened up to me about her twenty year struggle with getting this book published, not knowing how to move forward, nor the people who could help. She had no aspirations of making any money. Her sole wish was that as many people around the world could have access to the metaphor that she had created. At this point, my inner voice again spoke to me and again I listened, telling Diane that I would help her make this wish come true. With that decision, I also decided to stay in Colorado for a little longer and prolong this slowed lifestyle. If one month of slowing down connected me to Diane, I wondered what six months would bring.
Diane and I have met on-and-off now for the past year and a half. This past fall, we moved our usual coffee dates to a cemetery, where we walked and talked about the plans for the book for a couple of hours. During one particular walk, our conversations blossomed beyond our normal book planning and, much as Diane’s book came to her on a walk twenty years prior, my own dream appeared to me.
I imagined more of these exact style of walks with more people. I wondered if the same inner transformation that Diane and I experienced on our own personal walks could spark and ﬂourish even more in a group setting. The idea bubbled up inside of me as we continued walking, prompting Diane to stop us and ask me what I was thinking about. I paused, took a deep breath, and shared my idea with her, as she had done with me many months prior. I watched her sweet smile grow as she told me how she knew from the day we ﬁrst met that we both would ﬁnd our next journey while walking on our paths together.
Birth of Wild Dream Walks
That particular walk was last October. Since then, we have assembled a small dream team to publish Diane’s book, Gardening Your Life for Beauty and Growth online for easy access and downloading by anyone in the world. And, over the last six months, over 100 walkers have participated in Wild Dream Walks (my dream), in Denver and San Francisco.
Every walk, I see strangers slowing down, taking a deep breath, and sharing their dreams with one another. People share of wanting to start new businesses, of changing to careers with more impact, of writing books, of wanting more love in their life, of starting movements about their passions, of traveling or moving across the world. Some even come in a complete state of confusion, not having access to their own dreams for a long time.
Every one of those walkers has left with a reawakened sense of possibility for their future. I believe this happens because they realize and notice how other walkers have struggled or stalled with their dreams. In fact, as each walk progresses further and further down the path, a sense of empathy and trust is created and I notice walkers sharing parts of their dreams they have never uttered out loud.
No walk is ever the same, just as no dream is ever the same. From third graders to college grads to divorced moms to corporate executives, I experience these strangers courageously sharing and in that, I witness them connecting on a deeper level, a connection that we normally don’t get in our day-to-day lives. It’s a natural connection, one that comes, I believe, from the metaphor of interconnectedness that nature provides.
In each hour-long walk, I ask walkers not to worry if their dreams will come true or not. Rather, I ask them to hold an understanding that for any of our dreams to take foot, we must work a few muscles, not just in our legs, but also those attached to our imagination, curiosity, and our interconnectedness. And, to do that, we must ﬁrst slow down enough to hear the call of those dreams.
On a personal level, bringing my own dream, as well as Diane’s dream to the world has not been easy; there are days where I question it all and allow life to move by so quickly that I fail to pay them the attention they deserve. It just so happens that those are also the days when I haven’t walked or shared my dream with another.