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A Slice of the Pie: The gift of wander – Uncovering the hidden journey

As a kid, growing up in a small country town, I walked everywhere – to my friends’ houses, to the playground, to my mom’s hair shop, to my grandma’s house, to the paddock where I kept my sheep and always to school.

While I had a bike, and I loved to ride, walking was always easier. I didn’t need a helmet, or to worry about pumping up my tires or to wonder where I would park once I arrived. I just went. 

And I went everywhere. I’ve walked in every city I’ve ever lived, thoroughly exploring not only my own neighborhood but adjacent neighborhoods, the downtown, the uptown and the backstreets. 

I’ve walked in every kind of weather. I’ve been soaked by monsoon-like rains. I’ve had my hair and eyebrows freeze into icicles. I’ve gotten sunburns, blisters and soggy toes. I’ve busted flip-flops and had to walk home barefoot on hot pavement. 

But I’ve also witnessed the first spring flowers pushing up from beneath the snow. I’ve seen flocks of birds take over the sky. I’ve seen the moon change shape, the tides rise and fall and houses being flattened only to rise again in a new form. I’ve witnessed life happen at the speed of… life. 

Which is why, when my kids were born, I knew I had to bring them along for the journey – not only because it’s how I get around but because there’s so much to share.

So, as soon as they were born I strapped them to my chest and took off. We circled the neighborhood and visited downtown. Sometimes they slept, sometimes they cried, but together we breathed the fresh air and watched the shadows from the trees fall across us in stripes.

As they got older I transitioned them to a stroller. Now, sitting up, they could really see the world. We began naming the trees and the flowers, we caught rain in our upturned hands and faces and we wore out more tires than I can count.

Eventually they learned to walk and things changed again. Our pace slowed, they began to show the world to me. We noticed earthworms and acorns. We stomped in puddles and climbed rocks and trees. We spent our days playing in the park.

Now they’re in school and our walks have more purpose. But our minds don’t. Bodies swiftly moving, I can see their heads are in the clouds, stories unspooling. Sometimes we walk together, but more often we do not. Craving independence, they don’t need my hand to hold or my permission to cross a street. They know the way. 

And while sometimes they complain, “Why can’t we drive?” I suspect that, in their hearts, they are more like me than they would currently like to admit – they’re wanderers.

I see it in the way my middle daughter takes off for the library, a bag of books strapped to her back, never once asking for a ride. Or the way the two oldest, on a recent vacation, egged each other on, walking further and further down the coastline until, finally tired, they realized they had covered nearly eight miles of beach.

They have discovered that walking gives them control. They don’t need to wait for a ride. And that it brings them joy. Pockets filled with rocks and shells they notice budding flowers, catch snowflakes on their tongues and watch the moon emerge from the clouds. After all, it’s how they were raised, and they know, there’s joy in the journey.

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