This is the week I’m supposed to start getting in shape for Walk Wisconsin, according to the schedule posted on the website, so I thought it might really be a good idea to get outside and actually start.
Well, that’s easier said than done. With this season’s bizarre winter weather in combination with the dark of winter, it’s been quite a challenge. But it’s always a challenge for me to do something good and healthy for myself, no matter what time of year it is, or how much I seem to enjoy it. I always get tangled up in a project at home or work, and by the time I take a break, it’s already dark, cold and windy outside.
Half the battle is just getting outside. This means I need to force myself to change into some comfortable weather-appropriate walking clothes, put on the proper socks, reluctantly don my jacket and head for the door. Once outside, I usually feel better after a few steps. The crisp air hits my face, and I’m alive, excited to be out in the environment. I did it! I’m walkin’!
I walk without listening to an iPod, or any other technology. I like tuning in to the sounds of the whole experience – whether it’s a bird chirping, an animal scuttling away, kids playing in the distance or the wind blowing in the trees. Listening to music would color my thoughts and mood, and remind me of something from the past. I want to stay in the now for this. I want my thoughts to flow unfettered, because left to their own devices, they can be really interesting. Sometimes I think I should bring along a notebook.
It’s always interesting to see what happens when I come across someone – a person walking his or her dog, kids walking home from school or someone in a car. Will the person look up and acknowledge me? Will we greet each other? Make a joke? Or will he/she also coming up with interesting thoughts? When cars pass, I keep an eye out for how close they pass to me. Some drivers smile, some wave, some allow a wide berth and some almost graze me. I know which ones are walkers.
Children are always interesting. Typically they are tittering away about something with their friends and don’t really stop to notice a passer-by. One lovely day I passed a small group of little girls waiting for their bus. They were dancing and singing joyfully about the snow that was falling. As I passed, they stopped, a little embarrassed. I turned and told them to please continue singing, as I was really enjoying it. They all smiled and went right back to their raucous song. It was the highlight of my day.
The walk is always loaded with interesting smells, great and not-so-great. I can tell when a car passes if the occupants are smokers or not. I can tell if their car needs a little work, too. If it’s snowing, I can smell the sweet, fresh scent of the snowflakes. I’ll even try to catch a few on my tongue, as long as no one is looking. I don’t want to be that crazy lady who can’t walk a straight line down the street. The snow-laden trees, the wet road, even the puddles have a scent.
The best part, though, is enjoying the smell of suppers being made as I walk. I really don’t cook, but love to eat, so I really enjoy these moments. Plus it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy knowing families are sitting down to dinner everywhere in their warm, cozy
I like to notice homes and how they are set up, inside and out. How the space is used, the landscaping. You can tell if the dwellers enjoy gardening or if it never crosses their mind. Once in awhile, I see something I’d like to try myself, usually a nifty way of organizing a garage, or the way a flower bed is done, and take note.
Once it gets dark, if people have their home lights on, I start noticing living rooms and kitchens. It’s interesting to see how people decorate them. Some things about them are typical and similar, but once in awhile you find something unusual and interesting. You get a sense of what’s important to this person… and what’s not important. Sometimes I try to guess what their lives are like from what I see. I have always been a people watcher and am rarely bored, since they are everywhere and never cease to amaze.
I check for the time, and see it’s time to head home. It’s getting dark and cold. My pace is a little slower because I have been indulging all my senses along the way, making me momentarily forget about my goal. That’s alright, though. There are many weeks ahead of me to worry about that. And as I head back, I find myself wishing it was a little warmer and the sun was out a little longer, so I can spend a little more time on my walk – the walk I was dreading just about an hour ago.
Originally published March 16, 2012.