Like riding a bike…once you learn how…you don’t forget.
Choose not to, sure. But you don’t forget.
When I was a girl I used to walk everywhere. I would stomp with purpose in my Wonder Bread bag covered shoes to school in the winters, hoping to get the bags off and stowed before the LL Bean boot-wearing kids could see them.
I’d march, like a good little soldier, the kiddie version of a 50 yard mile to church on Sunday, fiddling with the all too popular, bang-holding, enormous, white, clip-on bow my mother insisted I wear. One that made my hair sit pregnant and waiting to pop its clip from atop my head, and in doing so, birthing my bangs back onto my forehead where they belonged! The post clip-on years saw my 9 to 14 year old self, stomp the yard the longest 1/4 mile known to adolescents…especially on Catechism Saturdays, where God’s own wicked witch of the north ruled with an iron fist!
The better walking days were when I was old enough to sashay and glide; take my time meandering and strolling, to the place where all good things happen. Overstreet. Which, for those who don’t know, is our far north yank-speak for Downtown. I could spend my fifty cent allowance buying nickle candy at the Economy Store, making sure to save the quarter I needed for the Sat’dy matinee a couple doors down at the Savoy. And often times, I’d even have enough to stop at The Candy Kitchen for a creamie on the way home, if that’s what the gang wanted to do.
In the pre-bicycle summers, walking to the pool was the equivalent my now-self walking 5 miles on the huff and puff scale. I’ve actually checked since then and know now it was just a hair shy of a mile…but it was the last half that was a killer. Or so it seemed at the time. And looking back…having a bike didn’t improve that hill any…not one lick! I don’t think I managed to stay ON the bike the whole way up but once, and only then because I rode that hill like it was a Donkey Kong trail, without the ladders! Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. It was easier to push it (or leave it home). Besides, kids pushing bicycles up that hill was just the way of it…until the 10-speed arrived. YeeHaw…what an invention. Not that I ever had one, but boy could those kids ride that hill like it was nothing!
Our’s was a small town; a good, walking town for a kid when you come right down to it. Nestled in a little valley surrounded by the Green Mountains; a college town without acting like a college town because we didn’t really sport the kinds of places college kids like to hang. And those we did have, the cadets managed to get thrown out of more often than not, so it was really just us town folk most of the time.
I loved walking that town, and I know it’s from walking that town that I feel so drawn to the beauty in everyday things that I often take pictures of. Imagine walking down the street where you live, and everywhere you look, there’s a mountain, or a brook, or a river. Walk to the end of that street and you can chose to go straight over the footbridge, crossing the river towards downtown and what adventures lie there. Or left over the tracks towards one of your schools or a shortcut to your friend’s house, the side street tree lined and leaf covered. Or better yet, turn right and walk to where the pavement ends and the dirt begins. Fields full of wild flowers and cows; promises of swimming holes and tire swings, and mountains as far as the eye can see.
All the time looking up. All the time thinking…I want to live in those mountains. I want to hear the brooks run and the smell the spring mud; feel the snow tickle as it falls on my face, and crunch under my feet for as long as I live.
I no longer live in that town.
But that town lives in me. I take it with me everywhere, as I take all those things I fell in love with there too.
It’s the peace I reach for when I can find none where I am.
No matter where I hang my hat, my heart remains there…in my little town. Where walking the streets is not a profession…it’s a path to connection. To God, to community, to nature, but most importantly, to oneself.
When I need it, I put on my boots and hit the road and remember. I remember to keep my ears open, my eyes wide, and my mind quiet. I remember to be thankful for some of the absolute best memories of my life…and more so, to be thankful for giving me the mountains my mind ran away to; where I’d sit under a glorious burnt orange tree while it bathed in the red-gold light of a late fall sun…for the absolute worst of my life.
The little town where I learned to walk; to never take for granted the beauty in the simple things; to accept with gratitude, the gifts it gave me every day; and learned too, the true understanding of what it is…the power…to have a place to call home.
(photo by Carol of Carol’s View of New England on blogspot)
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