In normal life, one of my very favorite parts of each day is walking the kids to school. Both the time spent with them, grounding, preparing, anticipating. And also the walk home by myself, savoring “the space”. The unfilled space, where I think, create, process. Along the way we see neighbors and schoolmates. Are greeted by our crossing-guard-turned-friend.

In these COVID-19 days, our 3-some walks have taken to the afternoons when we’ve all, bleary-eyed, turned off our screens for the day. I feel I parent best when I am out of the house and away from distractions (read: my phone). So for me, these walks still ground me and remind me of what matters the most—the four feet along with my two.

We don’t have an endless number of routes to walk in our area of town, but nearly each afternoon we find ourselves walking towards the school as we could on a normal morning. Crossing at the light without familiar faces. Circling the park near the school. And heading home. It feels right to return to this central spot in our lives. It feels right to cover our regular ground.

But you know what’s different? Instead of cataloging next activities, to-do lists, all the comings and goings of life, homework, sports, we talk about real things. We dream up party themes (Harry Potter trivia anyone?), we talk about religions, holidays, choices people make that our different than ours, we dream up book series to create. On these walks I’ve realized that if I think in poetry, the pace of life is just exactly right.

I’m reminded of all the roads and pathways that we take over and over, COVID or not. The running trails, the preferred ways. All the repeated, worn in routes we take through the great outdoors over and over and over. Step by step making sense of all that is life. And other times, simply being comforted by the routine, the familiarity, being outside, and the healing that each footfall brings.

– Lee

Brené Brown, famous for her work on relationships and vulnerability, may have said it best. “Whenever I want a drink I find what I really need is a walk”. That insight into the healing power of nature is no more evident than it is right now. One of the silver linings that I see coming through the Covid-19 crisis is the emphasis on family time, much of that outdoors. As the weather has turned nicer, the sight of families on their walks together fills the landscape, something I hope doesn’t change as we return to “normal”.

For us, we spend much of the spring / summer / fall camping, mountain biking and kayaking. Those are some of my best times, off the grid with just my family—no distractions, technology. Today, I find that in our long family walks. We pick a neighborhood to explore or some scavenger hunt item to search for (try ugly door colors for some laughs) and walk longer than we ever have really. Some of that is because there’s not a lot else to do, but a lot of that is that we just enjoy each other’s company and it’s easiest to do when you remove all the levels of distraction at home.

Getting outside for walks slows us down, helps us bond and stimulates great conversations. It’s something I hope stays with us forever and something I would encourage you to work into your schedule as often as possible. Whether it’s one long walk a day or several smaller strolls to clear the mind and shake out the legs, being outside has so many positive impacts on our physical and mental health. It’s also one of the key areas that has remained “open” and encouraged during quarantine—outside recreation with proper distancing. There’s a very good reason for that!

– Jeremy

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*Photo credit: Amanda Meyer