I absolutely love walking. Not for exercise, per se, but actually walking as a form of transportation. There is something so special about experiencing a place on foot rather than from the window of a car.
Walking around our little town forces me to notice things, and believe me—I am not an observant person.
I walk by the same yards along Sycamore Street nearly every day and get to delight in the passionate landscaping of retired old men, carefully mowing the grass in their tiny front yards so the lines are perfectly straight. Flowers come and go with the seasons—towering sunflowers in late summer give way to fall’s snapdragons and pansies, which are replaced in winter by ornamental lettuces and neatly placed pine straw. These days, daffodils are popping up in yards and even in neat lines along the city-owned strip of land between the sidewalk and the street. Every day, I see the buds getting bigger—then suddenly—pop! A bright yellow bloom emerges.
Huge renovations are underway on several homes on our street, and I’ve seen ratty old rental properties get a facelift, old houses receive new rooves and saggy Victorians transformed by new Hardie board siding and a coat of paint. Workers stop and nod at Julia and I as we pass by, them probably noticing my growing bump as I’m observing their project’s daily progress.
We’ve developed a silent rapport with the other walkers, too—the stocky lady who walks her pit bull mix religiously, the athletic woman and her perfectly groomed black and blonde standard poodles, the couple who walks downtown to grab a coffee every morning, the homeless people standing outside the library who always wave sweetly at Julia, the hipster police officer who sports a handlebar mustache and horn-rimmed glasses. I’ll never forget the day in the fall when we passed a man raking bright orange maple leaves in his yard and I asked if Julia could jump in his pile. He happily agreed, and she had the time of her life.
There’s also a sense of accomplishment for me in walking everywhere! We walk to the store, walk to Julia’s school, walk to the pediatrician, walk to the park, walk to the library and walk to the train station so we can ride to appointments or to fun activities downtown. There’s a feeling of rebelliousness about it that thrills me—it’s like we’re rejecting some kind of arbitrary rule about what defines “too far to walk.” It’s weird, I know. But whatever. It makes me happy. I’ll never forget walking to the Publix near our neighborhood when we lived in Alabama and running into a man we had seen in the store standing in his driveway near our house. “Did you just walk to Publix?” he asked. “Yes! We love that we have a walkable store in the neighborhood now!” “Wow. Redefining walkability!”
Finally, walking is our family’s favorite way to connect. What are you going to do while walking other than talk? Scott and I have our most important conversations on walks, and I find myself talking so much more to Julia in her stroller than I do in her car seat. It’s also a great time for phone calls with friends or prayer.
As with everything, there are downsides, of course. I’ve been caught in the rain and have felt like dying after walking half a mile in 100-degree weather (cold is not bad at all). I’ve been approached for conversation by people I don’t care to speak to (never felt threatened; just annoyed). This morning on the way to school, Julia and I came upon two buzzards eviscerating a dead squirrel right in the middle of the sidewalk—not my favorite walking encounter!
Overall, though, walking regularly enriches our lives and fits right into the simplified, slower lifestyle we’ve been building for the last six months. I know not everyone lives in a walkable community, but developing a daily practice of walking around your block or driving to a different part of town and exploring a new place can be so life giving! Take a walk this afternoon—hopefully the weather is as nice where you are as it has been in our neck of the woods!