An acquaintance hiking in the Dolomites for a week in August found herself all too soon on the last morning and last trek of the trip. She hoped to enjoy it in quiet. But two of her fellow hikers wouldn’t stop chatting. To escape them, she lagged. It was the wrong strategy—they simply slowed to match her pace. Furthermore, the climb to the top, already feeling tedious, would take even longer at the slower pace, plus the two keeping her company would have still more breath for talk. Perhaps they would have even thought they had more reason to talk: distracting their hiking companion from her apparent difficulty getting up the slope. My acquaintance was fuming.
I sympathized. Too much talk at the wrong moment can put you in knots. Once in a 12K race through the streets of Gijón, I was concentrating on running, an activity that it would seem you could do with very little thought. You can. In fact, the less thought the better. My ideal was to experience my thoughts like a rush of passing wind. Light, airy, gone before you’ve fully had them—that’s the kind of thought I wanted. It’s how to not expend energy on them or be distracted from the matter at hand, which at that moment was breathing and moving. When a fellow runner turned to me as he came abreast and made some mundane comment about another race, I set my teeth and nodded. A nod from a bobbing head is not the clearest response. “What’s that?” he asked, generously assuming an answer where there’d been none. I growled through my clenched teeth, desperate after half a minute to be free of him. So I understood the impulse when my trekking acquaintance confessed she’d wanted to scream that morning after an hour of unwelcome talk. Will she or won’t she, I wondered, reading her account.
She didn’t. Instead, with a burst of pent-up energy, she motored past her tormentors in search of peace and quiet. But the rest of the group was just ahead, full of friendly comments, and soon they all stopped for hot chocolate and cappuccino, and soon after that, they stopped again for lunch. She never did escape to magnificent solitude at the top of the day’s last rise, arms flung wide, alone in the spectacular scenery, with a singing heart and a song on her lips, as I’d wanted to picture her, as happy in the Dolomites as Julie Andrews was in the Alps. Instead, she sighed and accepted, though on the descent in the afternoon she managed to lose sight of the group for a blissful hour, until the sweep, the Italian guide who had been teaching her the words to “Volare” in Italian, appeared behind her. They walked together and reviewed the lyrics.
“Volare” would have made a fitting theme song for her attempted escape up the mountain. I first heard the Spanish version, sung up-tempo by The Gypsy Kings. Dean Martin crooned the song in English, and so did a host of others. Whatever the version, the song would have surprised her fellows, perhaps into lasting silence, though perhaps only until they joined in. If you can’t enjoy a moment in silence, then enjoy it in song. If there’ve got to be words, let them be sung. If you’ve got to run, then fly!
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