Shall We Walk?
Ann and I like to take a daily walk, and have been doing so together since the mid-eighties. We walk on Bell Springs Road, from our driveway up to Blue Rock, and back. It’s a forty-five minute round trip, and allows us to accomplish a number of objectives simultaneously, those objectives varying greatly from season to season.
Early on we were in survival-mode, an escape for Ann, from the demands of three small boys. In the infancy of our technological evolution, we had a VHS recorder, and enough kid-fare to be able to keep the boys mesmerized in front of the TV while we walked. After admonishing them to eat nothing while we were gone, and to stay glued to the sofa, we would spring loose to get a walk in, and some time to assess how we were holding up, and whether we would survive the day. These walks would have been late in the afternoon, when I had returned from work.
When I began to teach and Ann was working on campus, we began to walk in the wee hours of the morning, with me bringing her coffee at 3:45, and the two of us walking out the door at 4:30AM. This still allowed us to leave the house at six-thirty, arriving at school by seven. All of the years we spent on campus, we always got this little burst of energy after lunch, which we attributed to the brisk walk up on the ridge, before there was any hint of light in the eastern sky.
There are a number of reasons to walk which have nothing to do with the rigors of child-raising. I maintain that we never walk, without seeing something truly splendid, presented to us through nature. This is likely to include any of the following wildlife: bald eagles; red-tails, Cooper’s Hawks, kites, ospreys, kestrels, six varieties of snakes, foxes, skunks, possums, bobcats/lynxes, one juvenile mountain lion, raccoons, coyotes, and bears.
We have picked up and removed hundreds of nails, bolts, washers, nuts, and every conceivable part of a mountain vehicle, which rattles loose on the graveled road. We have found more than a hundred square nails of all sizes, a reminder that there were those who traveled this road when vehicles were wooden, and before air conditioning meant anything other than opening a window.
The experts say that if you get out and exercise three times a week for a half-hour, that you can increase your chances of avoiding all sorts of nasty health issues. Some people feel as though “exercising” must include a health club or gym experience, in order to qualify as legitimate exercise. By not being able to afford either the time or the money, they condition themselves to say that exercise really isn’t an option.
On the other hand, people who simply get out and walk are able to stay ahead of the game. Again, jogging seems so much more productive, sort of along the lines of “no pain, no gain,” but walking regularly, especially if there are hills involved, serves the same purpose, at no cost, to either pocketbook or knees.
The most important element of walking has always been that part which created the space for communication to occur between Ann and me, allowing us to carve out a little chunk of time from our busy lives to check in with one another to see how the other half was doing. I think this habit of spending time together every day has been critically important from the standpoint of not allowing ourselves to get too immersed in our particular daily rituals, that we failed to see the importance of mutual support and respect.
The boys saw how important this was in the big picture, even though it allowed us to be on the same page as far as the kinds of issues that arise daily, but sometimes work against adults. That’s because the kids have time to prepare an offensive, and the parents are caught unawares, and probably on opposite sides of the negotiating table. Parenthood is tough enough with two parents united in their efforts, let alone with the two being on opposite sides of the kid-manufactured drama.
So whether you are interested in nature, exercise, communication, or just plain survival, put your walking shoes on, and grab your binoculars. Get into the habit of taking baby steps to accomplish huge goals. It’s fun.