When we bought our home, we didn’t consider what has become one of its many highlights: walkability. If you draw a circle with a 1-mile radius around our house, everything I need on a regular basis lands within that mile. Our kids’ schools. Two parks. The entire Ashland downtown. Three coffee shops. Our church. The university. A hospital. Our dentist and our orthodontist. If you edge the circle out just a teensy bit further, I could even walk to my doctor’s office if need be.
There are financial benefits to this proximity, but I’ve also discovered mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual benefits. These days, I share a car with my daughter, who drives far more than I need to, so if I have a coffee date, or if I have a meeting with someone, or if I want to go to yoga, or whatever, 90% of the time, I can walk where I need to go.
Walking changes the rate at which your brain processes things. When I walk, I notice the changing colors of the grass as the seasons turn over. I notice squirrels scurrying up trees. I notice flowers growing where flowers ought not to find space to grow. I notice the changing of trees, the steady progress of construction, the rate my heart is beating, the strain of the muscles I’ve neglected, the speed of the clouds, the earth’s gradual tilting away from the sun, the gradual tilting back toward the light and how that impacts the morning and afternoon sky, the places the sun appears, the way the rays break through.
I notice (and even acknowledge) other people. When you walk somewhere, there’s a chance you will run into someone else who’s walking, too, a run-in and catch-up conversation that would never have happened if you both were busy speeding to your destination.
I never have to find a place to park when I walk. I generate no exhaust when I walk. I don’t have to pay for gas when I walk.
I can walk with no destination in mind, or walk for the sheer joy of going somewhere. You can’t rush when you’re walking—if you do, you’ll show up wherever sweaty and hot and out of breath, and besides all of that, how much quicker can you get there, really, if you’re jogging compared to walking?
Walking gives me a different perspective on my neighborhood and my community, an intimacy I miss if I’m driving.
This casual, steady, meandering stroll from point A to B and back home again is just one of many secret treasures our community holds, a gift that can feel like a curse or a blessing, depending on the moment, depending on the hurry or fuss or season or patience or pace of life required.
But most days, these days, I love walking.