Going for walks always was a solitary endeavor, for me. There is a special kind of zen to moving along a path on foot, on your own power, without the crippling aid of bicycles or cars. Air feels fresher, breaths deeper and more powerful. The world is more connected, as the sun lancing through the trees textures your skin with the shadow from high-hanging branches. The buzzing intensity of life, both human and animal, becomes something you’re an integral part of, and not just a backdrop to a journey.
Before I had children, I’d walk a solid five to twenty kilometers a day, alone, in perfect meditation with myself and the environment, and the classic metal blaring out of my headphones. I’d never walked with other human beings unless I was forced to, and I tried to keep those excursions as short as possible. Then, Sofia was born.
When I go on a walk with my daughters now, the kilometer count is considerably lower, but the walk time much longer. There is no sense of smooth motion through the environment, but a hundred stops every 10 meters, because even energetic, healthy children eventually run out of breath from asking “what is that?” 10 times a second.
There is no music, and no quiet meditation as I try to keep the two careening balls of energy on track, and out of harm’s way, and improvise field triage for a thousand bruises, scrapes, cuts and assorted contusions that would make a veteran medic just give up.
I had my decade of walking on my own, and I still often take to solitary paths to relax and mull over my thoughts. Walking with my daughter, however, refreshes my soul, and teaches me about the world in ways that I could never have conceived on my own.
Had you ever noticed how evenly spaced-out flowers on meadows are? That bumblebees curl lazily around flowers, forming heart-shaped patterns as they feed with their hive mates? Did you know that a seemingly uniform lawn holds a hundred thousand grass buds? Before Sofia and Emilia made me notice all these things, the cold facts may have been stored up in my head somewhere, but I’d never marveled at them, I’d never wondered about dew drops on leaves, only worried about grass stains.
And of course, if doesn’t stop there. Walking around in that I-swear-I-only-had-the-one-drink zigzag typical of children and moderately drunk midgets, Sofia often points at a neighbor walking a dog, a familiar face I’d never really stopped to look at before, and tells me that today that lady is sad, maybe it’s because her dog is hurt. And it’s true, the lady looks down, and the dog is limping.
Walking on my own opens me up to my own thoughts. Walking with my daughter opens me up to the world, as well as the billions of ways a human being can become caked in mud within an instant, in a series of perfectly reasonably events that could happen to anyone, but somehow are limited to certain midget types we walk with.
Walking with my daughters is the breathless joy of watching the two most amazing minds I’ve ever met discover the world for the very first time. It puts the kind of smile on my face that I know could cure the world, if people bothered to pay attention to their children a little more.