Walking has always been a way for folks to get outside, move their bodies, stay healthy, walk their dogs, and take young kids on a stroll. I love taking walks. My family will often visit one of the many lakes in Minnesota, hit up a state park, or simply make it down to the stretch of the Mississippi River that is near our home.
Since the coronavirus pandemic, however, I have rediscovered the gift of taking a walk no farther than my own neighborhood. When I walk out my own door and take laps around the blocks closest to my home, I become a part of the fabric of my community. Walking gives me the opportunity to interact with my neighbors—to say, “hello,” and check in on them. Walking also allows for relationship building.
Living in the north has been enough of an excuse for me to not venture out when the weather is cold. I am not what folks would call, “Minnesota tough.” However, due to the pandemic, being outside with folks seems like the only way to see one another. Many of my neighbors are essential workers, and some are counselors. Recently I have taken to early morning winter walks with a friend who is a neighbor and lives alone. She is a counselor to teens, is unmarried without children, and is struggling deeply with depression. Counselors, it seems, are burning the candle at both ends these days.
Our early morning winter walk is often the only real interaction she has with another human all week. While she is on screens all day, the impact of physically being in someone else's space and breathing in fresh air—even if it is only through a mask—is life-giving.
There are many who are feeling the effects of isolation lately. The winter walk has brought life back into our tired schedules. It has allowed for reconnection to one another and to the earth. We often see neighbors come to their doors to wave and chat from a distance while we walk past. They just want to check in. Some ask to borrow something or to offer small gifts. Beyond the many benefits of walking with my friend, our walks have also allowed us to reconnect with others.
There are many reasons to walk, but there is nothing quite like a walk right outside your door to regain a sense of place. For reconnection to the earth and to people who live closest to you.
Do you often walk in your own neighborhood, or do you have a habit of relocating for your strolls? Do a little experiment. Walk around in your neighborhood for a few weeks and see if you feel more connected to the place and the people. Sometimes being there is all you need to do.