This summer marks the third summer that I have walked around the neighborhoods near my office building. The first summer the feature of the route was a beautiful fountain outside the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. I started there, took in the beauty of the sculpture within the fountain, closed my eyes to trick my brain into thinking I was near an ocean, and then resumed my path.
The following year major construction near the fountain discouraged me from taking that path. The clanking sounds of metal work did not induce feelings of relaxation and getting away, so I mapped out another route. One that had lots of shade and also featured a lovely little park, also possessing shade and a drinking fountain.
This summer I've chosen yet another path. The features of this route are the hills for more of a workout and another park. What is notable about this park is that it was my destination early in the summer four years ago before life as I knew it fell apart.
I enter the park this summer from a different street. By this point in my daily walk, I'm ready for a rest. There are two cement benches flanked by two enormous trees. There's a name and tribute etched into each bench.
From this vantage point, I look south toward the bench that I sat on four years ago. I marvel almost every day at how different I feel from the woman who sat on the wooden bench those years before. This realization helps explain also the reason for my different routes each summer. It's intentional. When I walk the old paths, I remember the old thoughts and worries that accompanied me on those walks. It's a accurate measure of how far I have come in a few years. I don't really want to revisit those thought patterns and so a new path is the blank slate on which this season's thoughts can imprint.
This summer I feel freer than in years past. I use the time this summer to listen to audiobooks—the surest way for me to whittle down my ever-growing reading list.
I have also taken up gardening as a new pastime—initially out of necessity—but now after three weeks of hard work and pure enjoyment, I can't wait to get out to my hard after work and on weekends. Over the months, I have plans to write more about this, but for now I have this to say. My walks have taken on an explorer-like quality. The other years had an archaeological quality. I was digging deep to figure things out. This summer, there's less work and more play woven into my lunch time reverie.
Yesterday, as I passed the front yard that plays host to a raised bed made of stone,I saw the gardener responsible for the ingenious design. I told her that her raised bed of stone had inspired me to consider how I could repurpose a stockpile of pavers I have stacked up in my yard. That statement set off a lovely conversation. I asked random questions as they came to mind and she was free with her knowledge and information. Her biggest gift, aside from the offer of giving me some of the cuttings she will have when she thins out her flower beds, was when she said, “I don't always know what will work. I give it a try and see what happens.” I needed to hear someone who clearly knows what she's doing to take such a playful approach to gardening. Playful approaches. That's what I'm after in most areas of my life these days. It's a new way of being for this serious minded woman, but I have every indication that the playfulness of my youth is right below the surface and only needs a little urging to blossom. Like the plants I've already planted and the seeds I will sow in my garden this weekend.
In this season of learning as I go, letting the path lead where it will, I plan on taking her up on her offer.
So many good things have happened to me since I added walking to my regular routine. I look forward to what this summer holds.