I didn’t have a new year’s resolution this year, but I did choose a word for the year, and started a new habit right before the first of the year. A simple yet profound habit. A daily walk. When the weather is nice, and especially during the summertime, it drives me crazy to be stuck in the house for the whole day and I can’t wait to finish up whatever it is I’m doing and get outside. In the middle of winter, when it’s pouring buckets or just dark and cold, I still want outside time, but I don’t find myself out there for as long or moving around as much. In the wintertime I haul firewood here and there, but I’m not working in the garden or moving my body as much as I’d like to. I’m on my feet and moving all over the house, but that’s not the same. There’s nothing I enjoy more for moving around than to simply go on a walk, and I wanted to make that a part of my every day.
While I make a point to get outside every day, I had previously resigned myself to the fact that walks wouldn’t be an option for me, even though going on a daily walk is one of my very favorite things to do. There are several reasons for that. I used to hike up the mountain behind our house every day with dogs, and sometimes goats, by my side, but stopped after Bracken was born. We no longer have dogs, which is a decision we don’t regret, but I do miss those hikes since now I don’t feel safe hiking up the mountain alone (or with a small child) where we often find signs of cougars and bears. I also don’t feel safe heading down our driveway to the road for a walk because our neighbor’s dogs are aggressive and have gone after people and have attacked other dogs. All that being said, I felt a bit stuck, feeling there was nowhere for me to walk.
Then I decided to change my attitude, not give up so easily, and to make the most of where I am and find a solution. Basically, to stop making excuses for not going on a walk. So I decided to find a walk for us. Bracken and I started walking across the upper garden, past the chicken coop, down to the lower garden, then past the old goat yard which brought us to the halfway point of the driveway and then back up the driveway the rest of the way to the house. (Far enough away from the neighbor dogs, and through just a bit of woods close to the house.) That might sound like a long walk, it’s actually not very long at all, but it’s still a walk. I might not be walking for miles every day, but even one loop or two of that short walk feels great. Great to be outside, moving my body, and noticing nature around me.
I laugh to myself now, wondering why it took me so long to figure out that walk route right in front of me all along. I had dismissed it because I wanted a long walk, but it’s a walk we enjoy which is what matters. It makes me realize (yet again) how I can’t wait for conditions to be perfect, I just have to do the best with what I have and do the best I can. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful because I truly feel blessed to get to walk where we do each day, it’s so beautiful.
I have memories of my sister and I going on walks with my grandma when we were little. I know I’ve written about this here before. She would give us each a bag for our nature treasures and our walks would become a magical adventure, a treasure hunt. And when you’re a kid looking for treasures in nature, you find them everywhere. We came back with all sorts of things. It warms my heart whenever I think about those walks. Now Bracken and I go on those walks together and we’re carrying on the tradition.
The thing is that our work never stops around here, so I need to walk out the door and step away from it all, to leave the work behind for a bit. We love it when Jeff takes a break from his shop and joins us on the walk too. Some days I’m in a hurry to just go on a walk and get back to other things I need to accomplish, but the walk always gets me to slow down and then I’m so glad that I did. I need to leave the distractions, hold my boy’s hand and be fully present with him. We go on our walks when it rains too, and call them our “rain walks.” You’d think in the winter there might not be that much to see, or many changes from day to day, but it’s amazing how many new things we notice each time we take that walk. We’ll see an interesting looking mushroom, or something new popping up in the garden when we walk by, or a bird landing in the tree nearby. We love the way the ferns unfurl and seeing new ones popping out of the ground. Bracken stands up next to them to show how tall they’ve grown, and checks them every time we pass by.
Bracken has brought back many nature treasures from our walks. Empty snail shells, fairy pine cones (the name I gave them), feathers, stones, interesting looking lichen and moss, a peach pit (we pass by the peach tree), and dandelions. He’ll grab a walking stick on occasion and sometimes he brings a basket for his finds and other times he just carries them.When we get back home, we have a sedum plant on the front steps where quite a few treasures go to live. Besides treasures, he has also brought home pets. Fuzzy pet caterpillars and most recently- two pet snails (who were asked not to go near the garden, please.) I love to bring my camera along on our walks. Some of these pictures were taken with my other camera before we left on our trip, and some were taken when we got back.
Bracken notices things we overlook and points them out to Jeff and I. He always spots the first flowers of every kind. The other day we were walking through a place in the woods I especially love because it is covered in moss and looks like such a squishy, cozy spot to lay. Bracken exclaimed and then pointed to a tiny bright yellow flower blooming among the moss. It was so cute and was such a wee thing, I probably would have walked right past it without ever noticing. Something about it was pure magic and I laid down to try to capture it on film, but it was truly too beautiful to be translated to a picture.
I read an article that stayed with me, titled ‘Why a walk in the woods really does help your body and your soul.‘ In it, it said “The Japanese already had a name for the experience of well-being in nature: shinrin-yoku or “forest bathing.” I had never heard the term forest bathing before, but as soon as I had, it resonated with me on such a deep level. It’s such a perfect phrase. Now on my walks among the trees, I think to myself that I’m not just going on a walk, I’m forest bathing.