Pre-kids, my husband and I frequently took vacations centered around backpacking. Nature centered and anchored us. In nature, we felt closer to God and each other.
After having Hope, we frequented the Morton Arboretum. But as Hope got older, she often preferred the Children's Garden (a nature playspace) to the trails. Right or wrong, we often gave in to her desire to play rather than hike.
Since moving to Barrington and losing our easy access to the Arboretum, walking (and nature) have not really been as much a part of our life as we'd like. Last year, I was pregnant and oh so very sick. And this year, we've simply been busy.
Until, that is, we entered this strange, liminal quarantine space.
Don't get me wrong... We're still busy but we're busy in a different way.
Early on in this pandemic, our family sat down and developed a schedule (as I often tell mission trip leaders, think of this as more of an ordered list...) Knowing that we would ALL go nuts if we had to be inside ALL THE TIME, we included a minimum of two outside times on our list and vowed to adhere to those times regardless of the weather.
Four weeks in, I can report we have.
Outside time is the single best thing we've done since the pandemic began.
It's the time that ALL four of us look forward to each day.
We head out and Hope declares what we'll travel in. Some days, she and Kendall ride together in the wagon (those are always Kendall's favorite days. Oh how she adores her big sister.) Some days, Hope and Kendall each ride a bike.
Some days, when we're desperate for a nap, we put Kendall in her car seat stroller and walk until she drifts off.
Some days, Hope actually walks.
Regardless of how we actually travel, here's what I've noticed about our walks.
As Doug and I discovered early on in our marriage, walks recalibrate us all. If we're having a bad day, they center us and in some ways, give us a restart.
Despite both being home ALL THE TIME, when we're in the house, Doug and I rarely have uninterrupted time for conversations. But when we're walking, we talk and talk and talk. During our walks, we work stuff out. We get our schedules aligned for the next day. We wrestle with and through hard things. We cheer each other on and we ask each other hard questions.
Through walking, we're getting to know our neighborhood in a new way (and dare I say, actually appreciating it.)
Through walking, we're also getting to know our neighbors (from a safe social distance). We know which neighbors we look forward to having small conversations with and which we'd (honestly) rather avoid.
Walking also makes us slow down enough to notice things we've previously missed. We've started an animal chart where we record what birds and animals we see everyday. Who knew how much joy seeing robins and cranes would bring us. There's also a big rock we stop at each day to take a photo.
Rain or shine, cold or warm, before lunch and before dinner you can find us outside. My aunt has often told me, "There's no such thing as 'too cold'. Only 'not enough clothes'." We've certainly found that to be true. Turns out we enjoy being outside just as much in the cold and rain as we have in the sun...
OK... Maybe not just as much. But we've enjoyed it a lot.
Who knew it would take a pandemic to help us rediscover something so important.
I just hope that long after the pandemic ends, you can still find us taking twice daily walks around our neighborhood.