Walking. I was going to write this yesterday, but it would have been a BIG FAT LIE because it was flipping cold outside. On to “warmer” days…..
So, I walk the kids to school. Every single day. No matter the weather. I do not drive. Which, I know, is weird all on its own, but I don’t. So I walk! And aside from being immensely grateful for the physical ability to walk, I have also come to appreciate the fact that I *GET* to walk every day.
Since Jayden started school seven years ago, I’ve made the roughly 17-minute trek with the kids to school and the 12-minute trek without them back home, twice a day. I’ve pushed through every type of unshovelled snow with every type of stroller imaginable, braved crazy-windchills with every piece of weather-related gear available, balanced on every surface of ice, and have experienced every type of rainfall that we get in this area. The only time I stress about it is when it’s raining AND windy – because then umbrellas are useless and my mascara is likely to run.
On the other side, I’ve been lucky enough to truly experience and appreciate the most magnificent of skies, and delightful of breezes. I’m touched by the warm sun on my face, which is strongest in April, and I breathe in the crisp Autumn air, then feel it escape me in the Winter. I’ve seen the sky painted a million shades of blue, and the clouds take innumerable shapes. I smell a storm coming long before that scent of hot summer pavement becomes noticeable and have sheltered myself from rain that teems from every direction. I’ve watched the shadows dance in long silhouettes in the afternoon in December, and then not until the evening in June.
I get a solid 70 minutes of perfectly natural exercise each morning and afternoon without it ever feeling like exercise. Nowadays, I get half of that time by myself to think. I’ve evaluated my life, wondered about an infinite number of life’s mysteries, suffered over the intricacies of conflicts I’ve been a part of, obsessed over worry, and reminisced about people that I used to know. Sometimes, in an attempt to quiet the never-ending, lightning-fast thoughts that come to me, I just listen to music. Though, that never works – it just creates a soundtrack as background music to my neuroses Sometimes, like if it’s raining AND windy, I just think about how I wish that I drove….
My kids have really been able to behold Nature and examine the passing of the seasons. They have acquired an ability to sense the subtleties in the ever-changing winds and what that might mean for the weather later on that day. We are among the first to notice the return of the birds after long, silent winters, track rabbit footprints as a signal that Spring is near, and appreciate the very slightest change in hue of the leaves in the Fall. We get to note the difference in those trees year by year, and have determined that vibrancy is completely dependent upon how much rainfall we had the Spring before. We know that the sun is only there to fool you in the Winter, because the brighter the sky, the colder the temperature, and that as long as you are dressed for it, it’s never too cold. (Except for yesterday! At -45°C with windchill, we stayed home).
I exchange hellos and good mornings with at least a dozen neighbours en route, who, over the years have expressed great concern for our well-being if they don’t spot us passing by at exactly the same moment each day; who have watched me waddle along, expand my family, leap over puddles, navigate strollers through recycling bins that have been carelessly tossed, avoid dog poop, establish safe crossing habits, and listen to three kids talk simultaneously, all while holding three hands and an umbrella I too, have shared the sidewalk with countless children from the neighbouring school; watched them walk past me each day as they grew from big toothless grins waving excitedly at my familiar face, to straight-faced teens who still look up to give a polite nod.
I’ve only ever cried once on my walk – and that was the first day that all three of my kids were in school full-time this past September, and I knew I was heading toward a silent and empty house for the first time ever. The people that I pass each day were kind enough to not expect pleasantries that morning as I hid behind my sunglasses and choked on my tears. I audibly and primally groaned the entire distance and not one of them judged me. They knew what that walk meant for a stay-at-home mother who had built her life around her kids. They were people-watchers like me. And they understood that it was the first time I had ever walked that stretch without at least one tiny little hand in mine, and knew before I did that it was going to be the longest walk of my life.
The very next day, I took a deep breath, smiled, and realized, I GET TO DO THIS ALONE!!
I do not sit in traffic. Ever. I do not wait at red lights, I do not get annoyed at other drivers, I do no stress about which route to take or where I’m going to park. I do not think about trying to beat rush hour traffic, or accidents, or what condition the roads are in, or how long it’s going to take me to get there. As a bonus, I do not contribute to excess fuel consumption or exhaust pollution. Because I walk.
I get to listen to my kids tell me about their days without distraction, and know that they are experiencing a truly special gift.
In the worst weather situations over the years, I’ve had several kind people in our neighbourhood stop and offer to drive us to school. I always thank them, but refuse – and they usually seem confused and scrunch up their faces as they drive away. It bothers everyone else that I don’t drive more than it bothers me. Because they just don’t get it….
I am the lucky one. And for that, I am grateful 🙂