“Pursue some path, however narrow and crooked, in which you can walk with love and reverence.”–Henry David Thoreau
or, perhaps more appropriately:
“It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.” –Charles Dickens
Yesterday marked Cate’s first day of summer break. Normally, after I drop her off at school, and before I settle down to work, I take a walk. I park near her preschool somewhere and set off on a nice little excursion to start my day. (Admittedly, I am very spoiled.) Yesterday I decided that having Cate with me was not going to change my plans, and the only real question was whether she would accompany me on her bike or in a stroller. Realizing that either way I was going to be pushing her up every hill, I went for the stroller and after bribing her with raisins and her own water bottle I shoved my extra-large child into the baby stroller and set off for…
But it wasn’t working. It wasn’t relaxing in any way. It might have been that I was pushing 42 pounds plus stroller while the person inside lounged comfortably and occasionally wondered aloud why I didn’t “go faster.” It might also have been the scorching heat due to the lack of shade trees and the fact that I was practically taking a shower in my own sweat. But most of all, and I was able to pinpoint this when we turned around after barely a mile to head home, it was boredom. If you know me, then you know I would never excercise purely for the health benefits; I walk because I enjoy it, and I like a little scenery. This was more like walking in a pointless circle, the view never-changing from one white clapboard house with a pre-determined landscape to the next. And where were all the people? In a neighborhood that boasts a high population of stay at home parents, I didn’t see a single person on my walk. At one point I began to worry that I was part of a Will Smith movie where I was one of only 10 survivors of the apocalypse (don’t hold me to accuracy, I only saw the previews).
Today I struggled with the decision to drive across town and take my regular walk. Then, after deciding in the affirmative, I struggled to fold the jogging stroller and lug it into the trunk of the car. We parked at my parents’ house, (they’re out-of-town), and after raiding their cabinets for some aspirin and a gift bag to save a trip to Walgreens, we hit the pavement. There was something so soothing about being on my usual route, which admittedly, is also just a big circle. But it’s a circle with character; and giant trees offering filtered light and heavenly shade. We walked down wide boulevards and narrow winding roads, enjoying the change of view each turn of a corner brought. And we saw people! We saw actual living humans–dropping mail at the post office, heading home with their coffee and newspaper, walking to the grocery for a few forgotten items–of all ages and stages. The stroller seemed to glide along and my passenger, mesmerized by so much to see, stopped taunting me. Before I knew it, we had gone 4.5 miles and my spirits were revived. Which brings me to…
Okay, there were really 3 walks, but it didn’t make for a good title. The 3rd walk actually took place a week ago, on a day when Cate was still in school. I had parked at Henry Clay’s home and set off on my own to wander my favorite neighborhood. As I ambled around Ashland Park I enjoyed the fact that the sun was making an appearance after so many days of rain. In the cliché of a lifetime, I actually stopped to smell the roses growing along someone’s fence. Through the grace of God, and despite having a million items on my to-do list, I was completely underwhelmed in the most wonderful way. When I finished my walk, I was inspired to sit down on a bench and write about it, right then and there.
So what is the moral of this Tale? It’s simple, really: I don’t love my daily walks just because I see beauty; I see beauty because I love the path I walk. And one day, I hope, that path will be right outside my front door.