Bay Reflection

Vol. 8, No. 49
Dec. 7-13, 2000
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How to Take a Walk
By Shirley J. Brewer
How to Take a Walk

In this festive season when Christmas lights abound, it's fun to drive through towns and neighborhoods and delight in the profusion of color. Some folks outdo themselves creating light extravaganzas. I especially enjoy Annapolis and Centreville on the Eastern Shore.

The lights rekindle fond memories of a holiday ritual I cherished. I would fly from Baltimore to my hometown of Rochester, New York, arriving late afternoon a day or two before Christmas. My father would hustle my suitcase up to my old room and ask the traditional, rhetorical question: "Would you like to take a walk?" We were both avid walkers. My mom and favorite aunt, who lived with my parents for years and who still lives with my mom, would acquiesce - as if they had a choice. They understood the significance of this walk. My dad and I would bundle up in our warmest clothes: layers of sweaters, scarves, padded gloves and, of course, earmuffs. Then we would take the Christmas Walk.

My parents lived in a community called Bright Oaks, where trees were well-established and tolerated the proliferation of homes. In December, there was usually a coating of fresh snow on the ground. I always found the combination of snow and winter trees irresistible. Dad and I followed a particular route. There's a comfort in patterns, an unmistakable, reassuring routine. We would stop in front of each house and admire the Christmas lights. I would admire them. Dad would comment on the lighting arrangement and its effect. We would assign each house a number, with 10 the perfect score.

On our walks, my father and I shared thoughts on many topics and, even when I was in my 40s, he would dispense advice. Sometimes those words disappeared like smoke rising from a slew of chimneys. I would nod my head, then cleverly change the subject.

Usually by the time dad and I finished our walk, we had forgotten which house received the highest score. It never seemed to matter.

Now when I return to Rochester I take those Christmas walks alone, but there's always a hot toddy feeling in my heart. Deep in a winter night I can hear my father's voice: "I'll tell you what I'd do with those lights"

Dad, you were always a 10.

The Christmas Walk
By Hanne L. Denney

We walk with our eyes and noses five or six feet above the ground. We walk to get somewhere, across a parking lot or to the beach. We walk for exercise, or to get to the bus. We walk with purpose, with hurry, with worry and thought.

What if the walk were the purpose and the thought? How much we could gain if we took the time to enjoy what we're doing at the time we're doing it? Here is a guide on How to Take a Walk, based on nothing other than thoughts on what most adults are missing.

The best walks are taken with children. Children are still close enough to the ground to notice things we adults have not seen in years. When we walk with children, we must slow our pace and not hurry them along, lest walking is only a means of getting somewhere - instead of an experience in itself.

So find a child to take a walk with. Watch that child gleefully run outdoors, and follow with your own sense of adventure. Be open and smiling, and let the child be the leader. Stop to look at the road asphalt breaking apart, and pick up a piece to feel its rough texture. Plop yourself down on some grass and part the blades with your fingertips. Explore the tiny hidden world of bugs and little flowers. Look at it, and enjoy the feeling that you are part of it. Sit on the ground, and notice how it is warm in summer and cold in winter.

A good walk requires all the senses. Pine trees work well this time of year. Bend a branch and enjoy the fragrance. Hold a pine cone and enjoy its shape. Look into the sky and take note of the color. Move beyond the sky is blue and consider exactly what shade it is. Stop and hear the birds sing and the waves touch the sand. If we listen, we can hear the sounds of life itself all around us.

I just took a walk with my mom and my husband. How blessed I am to have them in my life now. We talked, and I so enjoyed the sound of their familiar voices. We saw the imprints of deer hooves in the ground as we walked past Mom's garden. I remembered the taste of summer potatoes and the feel of the dirt as I dug them up as a child. The air was cold and smelled so good. I heard the neighbor's horses run across the field with muffled thundering gallops. My husband reached out to hold Mom's arm as we walked downhill. There is great affection between them.

This was a good walk, satisfying and simple. It was the walk of a child and a parent. We shared our sensory experiences, and our words, building our relationship through pleasant memories.

Some things stay the same, if we let them.

Copyright 2000
Bay Weekly