When I am not on my daily five-mile trek through the woods, I like to bike or walk in my neighborhood. I love to meander down narrow, partially hidden roads and alleyways. I have a goal to walk on every street in my neighborhood. I keep thinking I have done that, and then I find another, heretofore hidden road to wander.
One of the reasons I walk for distance rather than time is so that I feel free to stop and look at and take photos of interesting things I see. I don’t have to rush through the world. I can engage with things on my own terms, instead of passing them by in an effort to keep my heart rate up.
I have always been a wanderer. When I was a child in the 80’s, I was allowed to go outside after school and stay out until dinner. I often played by myself (this is not as sad as my very extroverted daughter thinks it sounds), wandering through the vacant lots across the streets, the woods across the river, and, after the workers left the construction site, through the homes being built on the other side of the lake. I would cruise through my grandparents’ neighborhood on my bicycle. And, when visiting Texas in the summers, I would wander the whole neighborhood every day, through the fields, the school yard, the cliffs, and the bay, and would usually end up at the Dairy King to play some video games.
Wherever I have lived or visited, I am always compelled to wander around outdoors and take in all the sights the place wants to show me, and some sights that are harder to find. Yes, I have done some urban exploring and trespassing in my day, though not as much since I became a responsible parent. Roaming is in my blood. In cities, villages, woods, beaches, down trails, up staircases, over hills, and across the moors, wandering brings me in contact with the precious and unique details of the place, as well as the larger and grander scale of the location. Wandering is a large part of what makes my life magical.
Just kind of aimlessly wandering the streets is my favorite way of visiting a city. My family all recalls with delight the time we let cats be our tour guides through the walled city of Dubrovnik in Croatia. We would follow one of the many feral cats on the streets, letting them decide if we would go left or right. When we would lose sight of one cat, because it jumped over a wall or scurried under a dry culvert, we would soon find another cat and let it lead us. We saw some great parts of the Old Town that we would have missed if we had only kept to the touristy shopping streets. I have had many lovely adventures wandering close to home, too. I met a Tibetan monk in the woods near my house and he sang to me; I’ve walked past a haunted house and heard spooky tales from its neighbors; I have encountered lost dogs and lost mail and returned them to their homes. I have also found many magical things on my walks, like love notes, money, a big fancy old-fashioned key, and all my hag stones.
Walking is good for you physically and mentally, but it is also good for your spirit. Slow down, be where you are, notice the little details, breathe the fresh air, and let yourself wander. Every time you set off, you are on a new adventure.