An encounter with superwoman

Author recounts a conversation with inspirational park-user

The author, a native Chicoan, is a teacher of bilingual education, ESL, yoga, meditation, art and poetry.

There are heroes among us. I met one serendipitously. She walks with a slight unevenness, as though unsure of each foot’s next landing, and is strikingly thin with strong, fibrous muscles. I almost walked past, but for an urge to connect. I recognized her from several previous walks in Bidwell Park and wondered about the chances of seeing the same person every time I stride this loop at different hours. Is it coincidence? Since she is here nearly every time I am, we either have uncanny connectivity, or she lives at the park. Curiosity trumped.

“Hello, I’ve seen you here before. Do you walk a lot?”

“I have brain damage,” she said. “I was in an accident and I walk every day!”

I was surprised by her confidence and honesty. I circled around and walked closer, and she slowed, obviously wanting to talk.

“Wow, I’m impressed!” I was drawn in by her smile and delicate facial lines. She formed words with a concentration similar to practicing dance steps, or like my attempts at long Spanish words. I saw in this kinesthetically kindred spirit that it could easily be me overcoming grave harm, and I felt honored to talk with her. Two and a half years ago, her doctor told her she would be a vegetable. Today, she talks and walks and doesn’t stop. I lobbed my big question strategically in a rare pause of our conversation. “How many hours a day do you walk?”

“All day!” she beamed. “I can’t be inside, have to get out. I leave after breakfast, and come back for dinner.” Breakfast is at 7:30, dinner is at 5:30. You do the math; the probability of our meeting like this was high.

This proud mother, once a marathon runner and avid camper, is now a marathon walker, gaining health and independence in nature. The hours and miles spent under the sycamores and oaks of Bidwell Park are retraining for the self-reliance to live on her own again. It’s a full-time job she performs with Olympian dedication. She literally walks circles around me. My walk times 10 is this athlete’s daily commute to health. She competes with injury and does so with fine sportsmanship. Little did I know when I said hello to her she would be lighting up my day. I wonder, how many extraordinary humans fly like this, under the radar?