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I went walking

Posted on June 26, 2020 at 6:00 am

By Abra Cole

By now, you’ve probably seen the memes, videos, and funny comments comparing us, during the pandemic, to our dogs—roaming the house in constant search for food (and while we’re pacing around the house, we’re also jumping up and down when we see the mailman and barking when we see people walking or running past…).

I scrolled past this one at first, but then I realized how true it actually is. At my house, the goings-on outside our windows make up a large part of the daily entertainment. And when it’s too rainy or cold for people to venture outdoors much, our days can feel pretty lonely and slow. On the nice days, and even on the borderline nice days, our neighborhood is rich with opportunities for people watching.

Staying socially distant doesn’t mean not talking to people, either. Whether on purpose, or not, my 4-year-old has made himself known to several “regulars” who pass by. There’s the man who walks by nearly every single day with his dog. When my kid sees them, he yells “There’s that same man and his same dog again!” and the man waves back.

Then, there’s our immediate neighbors, whose comings and goings are like watching a sporting event: “There’s the girl! And her mom! Which car are they going in today?” and “Look! The gray truck is gone! Maybe the dad went to work early!” … and so on.

My son gets so excited when delivery trucks drive through, and especially when they stop. He can barely stand it. We’ve begun to look forward to a particular grocery delivery driver that my 4-year-old has connected with. When it isn’t him making the delivery, we’re all a little disappointed.

With the temporary closures of gyms and public pools, getting outside has been on the upswing in our neighborhood, and probably yours too. We see people walking with their families more, joggers at all the times of the day, kids riding their bikes, and people just hanging on their front porches. It’s a pleasant change, and I hope it continues.

Before COVID-19, my family would take the occasional walk after dinner or on a weekend day to enjoy the weather. But now, we go on walks most days, and I feel a little claustrophobic if I don’t walk somewhere, anywhere during the day. As a result, we’ve explored areas we’ve never known before, and completed approximately 470 printable scavenger hunts.

I used to get most of my exercise at work, running up and down the stairs in search of a book or CD for a customer, leading storytime for a group of energetic toddlers and their adults, and moving various furniture pieces around for this program or that. So at first, I had become considerably less active during the Stay Home order, just hanging out around the house and yard. Since the beginning of April, I’ve made more of an effort to take time for myself, including taking myself out to join the characters in my neighborhood, entertainment for anyone who might be peering out their windows watching the world go by. I highly recommend it!

For both adults and kids, walking is physically and mentally beneficial. When walking I can work on my mindfulness by focusing on the immediacy around me. Particularly so because as soon as I get home from one of these morning walks, my son asks me “What did you see on your walk, mom?!”

His questions have served as reminders to stay focused and not get too overwhelmed by the thoughts of the moment. I enjoy recounting my stroll with him, and the sights I saw along the way.

There are many great titles on the subject of mindfulness, and our OverDrive catalog offers both eBook and audiobook options as well as physical books in our collection. Currently I’m listening to Mindfulness for Fidgety Skeptics, by Dan Harris. I have a number of other titles on deck to read or listen to next, both from OverDrive and hoopla. Here are a few of them.

Whether you want to explore the benefits of walking or being mindful in other ways, you’re sure to find a title to help you on your journey in the curated OverDrive booklist Reclaim Your Chill.

OverDrive booklist: Reclaim Your Chill
OverDrive booklist: Reclaim Your Chill

Most kids are willing participants in this new neighborhood stroll idea, but if you need to inspire your own littles to get out and join the fun, here are some picture books my 4-year-old recommends.

Incorporating activity prompts can increase participation too. Use chalk to create an obstacle course in front of your house for all passing by to hop through. Or, take a piece of chalk with you on a walk and make your own alphabet walk by marking the sidewalk when you see something that begins with a particular letter. Then try to retrace your steps home, in reverse alphabet order! (A for apple tree, B for bumblebee, C for curious cat, D for a barking dog, and so on!)

And lastly, my favorite idea: kids and adults alike can be entertained and inspired with acts of silliness, following the footsteps of a woman in Yorkshire, who encouraged her neighbors to take their walks to the next level of silliness.

I’ve created a sign you’re welcome to download and print for your own yard, indicating that it is a Silly Walking Zone.

Whether you’re back at work or still at home, I strongly encourage walks whenever possible. You’ll be reminded that the world is still out there, neighbors still wave hello, and the birds have been singing this whole time.

The world is waiting for your return. You just have to get out there and enjoy it.

Abra Cole

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