Walking and Chewing Gum

… to once again probe the front lines of those things that remain possible.

Oct 12, 2017   I was walking the streets of Palo Alto in an evening washed with California softness. This neighborhood, College Terrace, was built out in the twentieth century. I am guessing “pre-war”, that wonderful era when homes were built to the scale of a family living modestly but still desirous of a distinctive and well-crafted home. Perhaps it was a hodge-podge of style in its day. Arts and Crafts bungalows bumped up against Spanish influenced cottages, interspersed with other mid – century forms. Landscapes planted with high hopes developed into mature trees overspreading the streets and avenues. Due to the arid climate, fenceworks and sheds carry a wonderful patina. It is quiet as traffic calming strategies reduce cars. There are far more bicyclists and walkers.

I was lost in my thoughts, carrying some groceries, leaning on my cane for stability. Crossing a street, I looked left then right and took a few steps. And suddenly found myself aground, like a ship hitting an uncharted shoal. The suddenness of the fall precluded any defensive maneuver. It was a face plant, a nose landing. Hands were not even scratched. Nose, mouth, and jaw absorbed the initial impact. A broken piece of bridgework lay on the road. Yogurt cups and fruit smoothies were scattered around a torn grocery bag. I was perplexed, not pained, but curious. What the hell just happened?

Kind strangers rushed over, helped me up, gathered my belongings, and offered a ride to urgent care. Blood was dripping, not flowing. My nose was pained but not broken. Like Rocky, heading back to his corner after three minutes of sharp jabs, I was ready to carry on. A nice man refused to surrender my groceries. He insisted on walking me back to my hotel. (Kindness is found everywhere. These simple and profound acts serve to remind us to seize the opportunity when it comes our way.) I slept that night with a wash cloth clenched between ruined teeth. I didn’t want blood to get on the bedding.

The Stanford trip had a purpose – leading a two-day workshop for emerging leaders. There was no thought of not getting on the stage. How can you facilitate a leadership program without the willingness and agility to overcome a few obstacles? My life is about adaptation.

My erratic, dragging left leg caused this tumble. I had already adapted by using a cane and avoiding rough surfaces. Now I will adapt by strolling in daylight. As the circle gets smaller, other avenues will be sought to provide the stretch and challenge that is central to life. There can’t be a surrender, just small tactical retreats in order to regroup, to once again probe the front lines of those things that remain possible.


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