In Appreciation of Walkabouts

Because I don’t yet have children of my own, I have no qualms about choosing a favorite child.  My child of choice is River, the beautiful son of dear friends in Georgia.  Sweet, orange-headed River has memorized most of the significant dialogue of The Lord of the Rings films–very impressive for someone under four.  (Imagine a little boy with his light saber triumphantly announcing, “You shall not pass!” (turns) “Run you fools.)  River already has great wisdom tucked away in his little black cowboy boots, thanks to his inimitable parents.  But I love his praise for “walkabouts” (his word) the most.

A “walkabout” is indeed a walk, but a destination-less walk.  When parents walk with their children in strollers, there’s usually no destination, just a walk for walk’s sake.  They don’t need a place to end up, so long as they head back home again when all parties are sufficiently tired.  Same goes for dog-walkers.  No destination, just the walk.

But slower walks all by your lonesome are not so common, especially when there is no end point.  Walks where you aren’t flaunting your exercise clothes are rare.  Your shoes are sturdy flats instead of tennis shoes.   You take the time to look around and stop for things that interest you.  You walk for the sake of walking and you don’t have a plan.

We took River on a walkabout a few years ago, in a winding, hilly subdivision where most of the houses look exactly the same.  (In fact, our very first home was a basement apartment in one of these stock houses.)  This particular walkabout made me realize that the subdivision was not so hospitable to walkabouts in general.   There were no sidewalks and all of the houses looked frighteningly identical.  The subdivision was made for drivers, not for strolling folk.

I’ve been thinking about that subdivision and that particular walkabout today.  We don’t live in a preplanned subdivision now.   We live on a block with an elementary school at one end and a Baptist church at the other.  All of the houses are different.  In fact, sometimes I like to imagine how our house (c. 1920) was the first on the street–all the other houses (in my mind) followed suit.   This neighborhood (not subdivision) welcomes walkabouts with open sidewalks.

But there’s a problem: for the nearly two years we’ve lived in this house, I have gone on two walks in which I venture farther than a few blocks.  On school mornings, our streets are filled with school children and their parents soaking up the freedom to walk to school.  Many of the families have strollers for the lucky little ones who get to ride to and fro in their pajamas.   Why am I not taking advantage of this walking space?  Why are there no walkabouts in my life?  And why do I feel like I need a baby or a dog or a companion to enjoy them?

Sometimes the school year shapes my life just as strongly as the church calendar, and so my resolution for this new school year is to enjoy more walkabouts.  We only have a few more years left in this city; I need to know it better.  I need to know the little parts of these streets more carefully.  And at work, I need to take a closer look at the beauty on our campus (a little Texas oasis, if you ask me) through workday walkabouts.   I want to walk with no destination.  I want to prayer walk and I want to imagine how the Romantic poets composed during their strolls.

I want to hear myself think more clearly with the movement of my legs.

Our Lego talisman from River, child of light and prince of walkabouts.

Our Lego talisman from River, child of light and prince of walkabouts.