While I was growing up, vacations were about traveling with a pop up camper, enjoying the US by way of state and national parks. When we weren't driving, we were often hiking.
And it was when we were hiking that my dad was the most grumpy about my shuffling feet.
"Stop dragging your feet!" he would bark at intervals on the trail. He never said much about why I should stop, other than to point out when I tripped in what I now understand as very normal per-adolescent clumsiness, that it was far safer to pick up my feet when I walk.
I carry this criticism with me in my cell memory. Sometimes living with my dad was difficult.
This weekend, on silent retreat, I was hyper-aware of the sound of people's feet as we shuffled through quiet woods to meditate, to mindfully take in beauty, to pray and be centered. I was also aware of my ability to move through the woods nearly silently.
I wish I could say it was a skill instilled by my father.
Doug Jordan, infamous band director at Lake Central High School for many, many years, knew how to move a corps of 175 students out onto a field smoothly, silently. We diligently learned to pace eight strides for every five yards on the field. To this day, I can march or walk off five yards with measured accuracy. Muscle memory is powerful.
Because you see, I didn't stick with marching band past that first semester of high school. I was bored. Or intimidated by other's talent. Or afraid of my own shadow. Or afraid of Doug Jordan, who like my dad showed loved and affection sometimes with criticism and volume.
But also like my dad, Doug Jordan had spent years admiring the pristine beauty of Canadian wilderness. When he taught us as squirrelly freshman the fine art of corps stepping out onto the field, he explained the purpose of rolling our feet, controlling our heel strike and rolling forward from the back of the foot, through the arch, through the ball, off the toes. Silently. I think he must have actually spoken of using this skill in the woods, of Native Americans silently padding through the woods long ago -- because that is lodged in my cell memory in a non-specific way.
At some point in my adult life this life skill came rushing back. I began to really pride myself on swift silence on the trail...even in big clunky boots.
And every time I take one of those silent walks, I remember the source of unexpected wisdom, and I am grateful.