So, it happened this week. All four of my kids packed up their backpacks and school supplies and braved the great big world of school. The youngest of the bunch – my bubbly, giggly little girl – is in the middle of her first week of kindergarten while the oldest – my quiet, conscientious son – is stepping awkwardly into seventh grade. My second son who is in fifth grade has discovered somewhat overnight that being organized is a good thing (teachers ARE awesome!) and my second grader announced to me yesterday that “math is the best!” Yep, things are up and running and, so far, so good. And I, for the first time in like 13 years, actually have a rather large space of time ALL TO MYSELF. Don’t get me wrong, there is still plenty to do. As any parent of any child knows, even when you aren’t actually with your kids, you are still thinking about them, planning and preparing for them because, you know, that’s what you do when you have kids. But, I feel like I have a little more breathing room to organize, to plan, to breathe, and especially to write!!
I also have found a bit more time to go for walks. My activity of choice has always been swimming or hiking, but a very close second is a nice, simple walk around the block. The act of walking can clear your head and calm your emotions and open you up, somehow. Here in Santa Fe, I especially love walking because the sky is almost always so blue. Now, you might tell me that the sky is blue everywhere and I would agree, but there is something about the brightness of the blue in the Santa Fe sky that takes your breath away and makes you feel like the sky is close enough to touch. So, once I drop everyone off at school, I take a walk under the bright blue Santa Fe sky, usually just around the block a few times.
When I walk around that block, thinking about the day and wondering about cross country practices, kindergarten drop off procedures, and upcoming fifth grade book reports, I also let a memory or two slip in. These memories are of my kids when they were little. You see, I can remember taking each one, as soon as they could walk, for a stroll around the block to introduce them to their neighborhood. I have rounded the first corner with each child and allowed them to greet Big Old Tree. He is a fabulously old, giant variety of cypress who has survived the desert climate long enough to grow to a dazzling height, especially from the perspective of a 1-year-old. Each child has given him a hug and smelled his dusty, earthy bark and felt the sticky sap that leaks out from the large knot on the side of his trunk.
Then, round the other side of the block, at the point farthest from our house, there is a long row of bushes on the left and an equally long fence on the right. Sometime in the midst of our many walks, the kids started to call this the “time tunnel”. I don’t know who came up with the idea in the first place, but it is now a tradition. We run through the time tunnel and come out the other side to find that the mountain ravens have turned into pteranodons and the stray cat crossing the road is a velociraptor.
In the summer, there are lizards speeding under the bushes that you can catch if you are quick enough and the occasional giant yellow swallowtail butterfly that flies just over your head. These are followed in the fall by dozens of grasshoppers, some huge and bright green, others small and brown and ferocious looking. By winter, all the little creatures have disappeared and there is ice in the time tunnel. You have to waddle your way through it like a penguin. Then spring comes with its red ladybugs and curious ants that crawl underneath your feet and the happy promise of summer rushes to you once more.
And as I walk now around the block, a hundred memories rush by me of walking with my children. When they were very young, everything they encountered was new and wonderful. Then, as they got older, they began to observe, examine, consider, imagine. And I had the great privilege of seeing it all through their eyes, seeing the great magic that one small neighborhood block could hold. I think about how it is probably designed this way – that we old, hardened parents can reawaken our minds through the eyes of our little ones.
Then, I think finally about how my children and I are not alone. How over and over and over again, a person somewhere out in the world has taken a walk and found wonder, beauty, peace. What is it about even the smallest of nature’s wonders that draws us, calls to us, speaks to us from the time we are babes to the time we are aged, always repeating, always rediscovering, always reawakening?
John Muir said “In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.”
So, I think I will go one more time round the block. It is still summer, after all, and I can look for lizards and butterflies and the grasshoppers will be coming soon.
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