Amy Ward Brimmer

mother daughter wife teacher writer dreamer sister worker seeker activist minister healer student human


Heaven is Under Our Feet

     Thoreau said:  "Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads."  Walking yesterday and today I have been feeling this viscerally. I've covered about 12 miles between the two days, breaking in a new pair of shoes, experimenting with different layers of clothing and socks, trying to avoid blisters and learning how to treat the ones I get. (helpful information here about that) Spring is such a great time to take long walks, and it is stunningly gorgeous here in Bucks County, PA.  Blazing azaleas, pink and white dogwoods, irises and tulips blooming -- and green absolutely everywhere, in every shade.  William Penn knew a good thing when he saw one.

     I walk along the Delaware Canal, just two blocks from my house. It's a wonderful state park that runs from Bristol to Easton, and offers a beautiful setting for exercise year-round.  In spring one has to be aware of the geese who nest along its banks, and when I spot a sweet  goose family with its mama, papa, and fuzzy yellow goslings, I am cautious. These geese are hell bent on protecting their young ones and often hiss at me as I pass by; they will attack if they feel threatened.

     I have been considering how natural it is to want to protect the younger generation, how strong the survival instinct is in us, so much so that we would kill to stop any serious threat to our child.  Yet we don't fight for the planet on behalf of the next generations. How can we be more fierce on their behalf?

     Walking along a canal means having to turn around and come back the way you came.  Some fundamental part of me does not like this. I'd rather walk in a loop, I suppose.  There is something difficult psychologically about that moment where I turn around and start walking back, knowing that I am only halfway done. I almost always hear "only" halfway in my head, not "already" halfway. Luckily, it is also the point at which the endorphins usually kick in. I had actually forgotten about how fabulous endorphins are, as they flood my system after I have walked a few miles. I begin to feel sore or tired or bored or I tighten up and want to stop but there's nowhere to stop so I keep going, and then boom!--there's that nice "all-over" feeling, that sense of integration, in spite of how hard my muscles and bones are working. Then the walking does itself, and when I am walking along the canal I feel myself flowing, as the water is also very slowly drifting along.  F. M. Alexander said, "The right thing does itself," and, like William Penn, he was really on to something there.

     I thought of F.M. today when I encountered a local great blue heron. I have a special connection with this bird, since the first time we met. A few days after we moved here I went out for a walk, harboring grave doubts about what we had just done to our lives by leaving Brooklyn for Bucks. As I rounded a bend in the towpath, I came upon this heron standing on one leg and instantly realized why I had chosen to relocate. Today when I saw the heron on the path ahead, I slowed down, fearing I would scare it. But as I crept closer, the bird remained still, until I was mere inches away. Our eyes met and I watched as it quite deliberately and delicately raised one foot and stepped away like the world's most elegant dancer, its long neck a reminder of "up."

     Such diversity of life, such strength and beauty all around.  Careful stepping of the bird, former dinosaur. ancient eye, primal connection, reminder of the interconnectedness of everything, reminder that we ought to step carefully too.

     May I walk with a fierce protection for the web of life in my heart.  May I be grateful for Heaven under my feet.

I welcome your positive wishes, prayers, and good cheer for me and everyone with the Earth Quaker Action Team as we embark on the Green Walk for Jobs and Justice, this Monday, April 30.


Just Walking

Yesterday I facilitated a training that explored the application of Alexander Technique principles to the activity of walking.  I was leading this training as both a fundraiser and in preparation for the Green Walk for Jobs and Justice, Earth Quaker Action Team (EQAT)’s upcoming 16-day, 200-mile walking expedition from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh to build support for our campaign to stop PNC Bank from financing mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia. I will be one of the “Mountain Justice Walkers”, walking between 10 and 17 miles a day over several days.

Like most everyday movement, walking is something that we take for granted, and in doing so we simultaneously interfere with our innate ability to walk with power and ease. As I prepare for the Green Walk, I am feeling especially reliant upon Alexander Technique to keep me moving with ease and balance, and hopefully build up stamina and minimize injury.

Yesterday was a bit chilly with a steady, soaking rain. The plan was to walk 3 to 5 miles for about 2 hours in Center City Philadelphia, but as a group we agreed to cut that down to just under an hour and about 2.5 miles. It was like walking inside a rain cloud, and although not horribly windy or frigid, it wasn’t exactly pleasant. A ways into this soggy walking practice, I heard myself ask, “why am I doing this again?” and then, “how is this helping anyone?” In the same instant I recognized the part of myself that believes everything in life should always be nice and comfortable and pleasant. And another part that expects all endeavors to be a means to an end and not an end in themselves.

In any case, it seems like now, just one week before I begin the Green Walk, would be a good time to try and answer the question of why. 

Why I Am Walking
  1. Because I can’t sit idly by
  2. Because it will make me stronger in body and mind
  3. To put my conviction to the test
  4. To make a bold statement
  5. To bring attention to the plight of the communities and culture of Appalachia and all the people who are living with the effects of MTR
  6. To become closer to the Earth
  7. Because I want to slow down
  8. To promote Earth Quaker Action Team
  9. Because I am just so fricking sick and tired of corporate culture dominating everything everywhere
  10. Because it will be fun, joyful, empowering, instructive, and totally ridiculous
  11. Because I know a leading when one hits me upside the head
  12. To become a better organizer and teacher
  13.  To give me something to blog about
  14. To meet some Pennsylvania Quakers outside of Philadelphia
  15. I feel it is my Christian duty
  16. To move and be moved
  17. Because it’s better than sitting on my ever-widening ass and doing nothing
  18. To find out more about praying with my feet
  19. To soak up every bit of wisdom and know-how from George Lakey that I possibly can
  20. To be humbled
  21. To get in shape!!!
  22. Because it will be nothing but a completely focused and directed experience, the sort of opportunity that doesn’t come around too often. 
This Green Walk for Jobs and Justice is about restoring the balance in our economic, environmental, and spiritual systems, or establishing right relationship. I am so lucky that I get to do nothing but walk, step by step toward a clear and obtainable goal: to ask PNC Bank why it prefers to invest in destruction and degradation instead of clean, sustainable, prosperous communities.

The whole time I can just focus on my body. Eugene Gendlin said, “’Body’ means interaction with the situational environment. Even the simplest living bodies are complex and purposeful interactions with their environments.”  So in restoring the environment through cutting off the money supply currently funding its destruction, I am engaging in a “purposeful interaction”, mile by mile.  I know I will be restoring myself, my own bodymind, as I walk. 

I am so blessed to have this chance to work intimately with people I admire and respect.  Seeing this group come together in about 6 weeks to literally put this Green Walk on the map has been a lesson in the miraculous.  When we say “way opens” we are not kidding. People are really ready to be helpful, to join in and give their support in many ways. I think a lot of the time most of us are anxious and afraid, and any tangible, practical thing we can do somehow mitigates that, and feels good. The best part is, we’re actually not doing all that much. Certainly we’re challenging ourselves mentally and physically by walking, but essentially that is all we are doing. Just walking. And maybe connecting with our neighbors as we go. So it feels productive, and it is, but not in the usual way of our daily, multi-tasking selves running around trying to Get Stuff Done. 

There is a refreshing quality of honest and direct communication in the planning process that I have seen, amongst ourselves and also between EQAT representatives and the hospitality and activist contacts we’ve been calling statewide. It seems that even when people cannot accommodate a request, they have been generally supportive and their reasons for saying no almost always have to do with what is best for their congregation or community group. In explaining themselves, they reveal their values and contribute something of themselves even in the refusal. That feels like good politics to me. 

These are just 22 of the possibly hundreds of reasons I am joining the Green Walk for Jobs and Justice. I do hope I will have enough energy on the road to write short, frequent posts on this blog.  Meanwhile, I welcome your comments. 

Why are you joining the Green Walk? If you want to but can’t, why would you want to?

What messages should we bring to James Rohr, CEO of PNC Bank, when we get to Pittsburgh?

Stay tuned.