FIRST STEPS
WOMAN'S OWN|September 21, 2021
Sam was at a crossroads in her life after a death – and it was time to pick a new direction for herself

The words ‘Yorkshire Wolds Way’ had been carved into the arm of the wooden guidepost that pointed clearly up a high, grassy hill. Sam pushed her long hair out of her face, tucking her brown curls behind her ears. Her green eyes looked up the slope, meeting its challenge.

Although she was out of breath, three days of continuous walking had made climbing the hill much easier than it normally would have been.

Her lodger Jenny had been surprised when she had announced in the kitchen one day that she was taking a whole week off work to walk 79 miles across Yorkshire – alone.

‘Sam, are you sure?’ Jenny asked as she washed a plate at the sink. ‘That’s a long way for a woman in her 40s, and what happens if something goes wrong? You sprain your ankle, or you get lost?’

‘I’ll have my phone with me, and if I get lost, I’ll keep walking until I’m found again,’ Sam had joked, drying a mug with the tea towel.

Remembering that conversation with Jenny brought to mind her late mother. Sam had cared for her at the end, eventually watching the life fade from her pale, papery skin.

Afterward, Sam had been cast adrift in the empty house, her anchor suddenly gone. Jenny had moved in just after that, filling the silence.

Sam had visited her GP in those numb, dark months. The young doctor had listened, then asked if she had considered walking – she never had. She usually parked as close as possible to the supermarket entrance, so she wouldn’t have to walk across the car park.

He’d checked her address and opened his filing cabinet. Handing her a piece of paper, he said, ‘Two-mile circular, starts not far from you.’

She had agreed to the walking more out of gratitude for his quiet kindness than anything else.

The next day, even though going for a walk was the last thing she felt like doing, she set out. Feeling less than enthusiastic for the first 20 minutes, she had met some friendly walkers and stroked a few enthusiastic dogs in various states of muddiness. By the halfway mark, she started to feel better, lighter.

Carried by that feeling, she had decided to visit a walking shop for proper boots and a book on local trails. Looking around, breathing in the smell of rubber and leather, she felt out of her depth. The man who served her eagerly explained everything she would need to look for in a good pair of boots and told her about routes he had walked.

Now here she was on the Yorkshire Wolds Way. She wanted an adventure just for herself, to explore the ruined medieval villages, take in the views and see the sculptures that dotted its length. She wanted to work out who she was again.

At the top of the hill, she stopped to catch her breath, the sun warming her face. Just as she finished tying her coat sleeves around her middle, her phone rang.

‘Is that Sam?’

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