Over the last two years I have walked hundreds of thousands of steps along a very special stretch of sidewalk. Laughter has resounded, tears have been shed, magical discoveries have been made and true friendships have been formed as we share that stretch of sidewalk with some other special people.
Over the last year alone I have walked about 800 kilometers on that strip of concrete. That is over 1 million steps. It's 1 kilometer each way and I do the walk twice daily on school days. At a brisk pace it takes 12 minutes from door to door. But most of the time it takes a great deal longer than that.
In the two years we have been making this trek to school and back there have only been a couple of mornings that we called the walk due to weather. I kid you not, it was about -50C with windchill and I still briefly considered braving the elements. Now those who know me well know that I am not an outdoor winter sports fanatic by any means. When I was a kid I was the first one to come in from the cold while my sisters continued tireless work on a snowfort or made an extra loop around the field on their snowshoes. But this commitment to my walk is different. It is soulfood.
On winter mornings we feel like arctic explorers. The only parts of our bodies you can see are our eyes. Peeking out over our thermal neck warmers. Our breath creates condensation on our eyelashes, which then freezes to stick our eyelids shut. We are captivated by the beauty of each sparkly snowflake as it falls to rest on our coat sleeve or the hood of the stroller. We were quite late for school one day because we stopped to admire the hoar frost on every branch we past. School could wait, we were in Mother Earth's classroom that day. Some days the ice mist over the river valley is so dense that the city skyline disappears completely and makes you feel as though your world has shrunk to the span of a few square blocks. On the way home we have more time for, climbing snow mountains, trekking through fairy forests, sitting on snow drifts to shoot the breeze, pulling each other in sleds, snow angels, collecting icicles and general tom foolery.
When the warm weather returns we feel the freedom of our unencumbering attire. The pace doesn't change much. Snow angels are replaced by cartwheels and climbing snow mountains shift to climbing trees. We are still almost late for school some days because the pace of our walk does not reflect the urgency to come in out of the cold.
Watching the trees and flowers blossom in spring has certainly been remarkable but it is even more remarkable to watch our children blossom, their relationships blossom, our admiration for them blossom and our sense of community and connections with our neighbours blossom. We share our walk regularly with three other families and a ragtag bunch of siblings, hitchhikers, dolls and pets. One mom calls it "the walking school bus". Some days there are as many as 10 kids and 6 adults. We have been known to block traffic and we attract a fair amount of honking and waving. This group of mom's have become a bit if a lifeline for me. I know that I can always count on them. The option is always there for them to walk Meg to school or bring her home for me...but I just can't stay away. Lola and I need that time as much as Meg does. We wake up to the world in those 30 minutes in the crisp morning air. Breathing in the peace of our block, breathing in the joy of our union with our comrades at "kids corner", breathing in the excitement and anticipation of a new day to learn and soak up the spirit of community. And at the end of each school day our children have a chance to slowly and gently transition back into our family routines. To shift and squirm their bodies in an effort to shed the weight of their day of independence and burrow themselves back into the bossom of their mamas.
This stretch of sidewalk has seen and heard some of our lives most revealing and authentic moments. I have knelt down on that pavement many times to offer comfort for a scraped knee, a bruised ego or a broken heart. I have thrown my head back and laughed into the canopy of our big old elm trees at the sheer delight of a crazy outfit or a knock knock joke. And I have grinned foolishly at the joy of it all.