My family walks as much as possible. I think that walking as a part of life is revolutionary. Our cities are set up more and more for cars and capitalism than for humans. I see things around me that I would miss were I to drive. Walking to get places provides a huge amount of community involvement.
Lately I have felt a bit confused about what I can do in terms of political involvement and social justice work. I feel overwhelmed with what is going on in the world, and limited in my capacity to be involved because of my commitment to my small children, and also overwhelm of sleepless nights.
I decided to start noticing and appreciating what I am already doing that I consider important/political/revolutionary. Once I have noticed some of the things I do which are already integrated, I can more easily assess where I might add a few more things to my days.
It's movement (some would say exercise) but it's actually so much more than that.
When I walk, I see how much plastic washes up on the banks of of a river and am reminded of my commitment to keep supporting political movements which decrease our reliance on plastic as well as my own commitment to reduce my consumption of disposable (and recyclable) items.
When I walk, I meet the city’s homeless population and have a much more direct and personal interaction with some of our most vulnerable citizens. It is all-too-easy to avoid eye-contact when I am driving. When I repeatedly see some of these folks, I remember to carry dry socks, or a gift certificate to a local food store. I remember to support agendas which provide better housing options. I remember that homelessness is a social justice issue, that there is a disparity in fairness within our society.
As I walk I see what’s going on in my neighborhood. I experience how walkable our community is or isn’t. I see where we might need another crosswalk by that playground, especially for folks in wheelchairs and when I walk I am much more liable to write to my city about these issues. I remember to donate money to causes which uphold the standard of care for our vulnerable citizens. It’s movement (some would say exercise) but it’s actually so much more than that.
Walking gives us an opportunity to have face-to-face contact with people in our community. We run into people and establish simple connections we would miss in a car. Today I walked by a neighbor's house and discovered that it is the home of one of my daughter's schoolmates. The parents and I chatted a bit about our kids, I was invited to a potluck next door to their house and we made some tentative playdates for us and the kids. So much fun! We find that we have many random, beneficial and informal interactions when we bike or walk.
Choosing not to drive gives us an opportunity to slow down.
We recently got a bike which can hold both kids. If I am going to walk or jump on the bike with my two kids and I have to use my own body to get there, I will only do it when I feel up to spending the energy it takes to travel there. If I lazily climb into my car, I car quite easily do too many things and stretch myself beyond my own and my children’s capacity. Thus, our choice of transport self-regulates our actions. Things are a little different when we have to be somewhere at a specific time, but I have noticed a positive overall effect.
Walking through wild lands lets me experience the calming effect these places have, and experience how me and my children learn from being in undeveloped nature. When I experience this and see what richness it gives to my children, I remember that I want to support the political causes which protect undeveloped land and the environment.
To add to all of this, my choice to walk as much as possible decreases my family’s reliance on the oil industry which could be another lengthy article in and of itself. Reducing our reliance on oil is a huge priority for our family because of the impact on global politics, the environment and humanitarian issues.
When walking with young kids, I have to walk with not much agenda, and therefore need to go out with the openness to see what happens in order to go at their pace. My 11-month-old has been walking for 3 months now and she recently started being able to walk with us on walks little bits at a time. It’s pretty thrilling. What’s even more exciting is seeing things through both of my kids’ eyes. I think that when my first daughter was little I had such a hard time slowing down and letting go of the desire to keep walking and get somewhere, that I often spent my walks lamenting the slow pace, trying to entice her along and missed out on some of the wonder. Now with my second child, I am still learning to relax but I have learned that the walks with my kids offer a different opportunity than a solo walk. I try to structure in my own time to get faster paced walks a few times a week. That helps me slow down and see what my kids find. Our lives have become so fast paced I welcome the opportunity to slow down.
Walking gives us a chance to experience wonder.
Today I walked with just the little one. We encountered so much wonder on our walk! Last year I walked around looking for the first signs of spring with her in my belly, waiting out the last few weeks of pregnancy while taking lots of walks and noticing the build of spring: the first snowbells, violets and crocuses which then led into blooming trees, budding leaves and daffodils a few days after her birth. This year I get to share these things with her. I can hardly believe this year has flown by so quickly and just revel in the moments when I show her things. Today we saw the first plum blossoms, many growing daffodil stems and a magnificent flock of geese. It’s amazing as a parent to watch someone so young discover, for the first time, the wonder of watching a flock of geese fly in formation. We heard the sound before we spotted them and when she saw them her face completely lit up with amazement and surprise. She followed them through the sky with her gaze while making tiny coos, baby words and chuckles.
All the of the above stated reasons are the things I want to teach my children. I walk with them too because I want us all to stay healthy, but even more than that I want them to see the community, understand what is going on around us, see that there are vulnerable lands and people in our city which desperately need our support. I walk because I want to be here, taking care of this city and this world with all of you.