Lately, I’ve enjoyed the simple act of walking with my daughter. A walk is a wonderful way to connect with your child in nature, without distractions. Though my initial motivation was to get us moving, I found something far more magical occurred during our walks. I found that we became natural observers of the world we live in – a world that is far more beautiful when you’re paying attention. I felt in awe of this new world, seeing it not only with my own eyes, but through the eyes of my child. I found that though we saw the world differently, we could collaborate to figure out the mysteries that unfolded before us.
When I was in college, I learned about Rudolph Otto and his famous expression of the mysterium tremendum et fascinans. I remember being enamored with this idea, hanging on every word my professor uttered as he explained this concept with such passion. I wondered if I would ever fully understand that which is the mystery of the world; it was both terrifying and fascinating to me. I felt this embodied the essence of the question I had asked myself with increasing frequency as I aged: what is the meaning of life? However, it was not until I was in my thirties that I slowed down enough to understand what Otto meant, and I found it in partnership with my young daughter. Today, I take every opportunity to further unfold the mysteries of life, while enjoying my own in the process.
I am offering you a way to enjoy the simple, yet brilliant aspects of this life with your own children through walking.
Taking a walk can be so much more than walking for exercise. Often, I allow myself to be open to whatever the walk brings. Sometimes my daughter and I create fairy houses along the way out of sticks, and other times we climb trees. I’d like to share with you a beautiful experience we had on Cape Cod that was both spontaneous and magnificent, which you are invited to replicate if you so desire.
We set off for a new trail, the East Sandwich Game Farm. My seven-year-old daughter, Charlotte, asked to bring a notebook. She said, “we can write poetry on our walk!” Please note, we did not plan to have a Walt Whitman experience; this happened in the same organic way that the wildflowers grew perfectly along the worn path in the woods.
1. Bring a Notebook – Perhaps your child likes to write, draw, or sketch. Allow creativity to flow as you walk. You could draw the scene ahead of you, play tic-tac-toe while resting on a fallen log, journal your experience, or take note of the different types of trees you see. Be an active participant in your own experience. These keepsakes are yours, forever.
Charlotte wrote the following poem:
“A lake is good, like it should. Walking is just like kayaking. Sweet as a meadow, just like a ferow.” (She made up the word “ferow” because it rhymed. I love her little mind!)
And I wrote my poem:
2. Leave a Treasure for Someone Else – Have you ever seen someone leave a message that felt just right for you? Perhaps it was a Kindness Rock (if you haven’t seen these, Google the “Kindness Rock Project!”) or a stack of rocks that signified the very balance you are seeking in your life. When we do for others, we also do for ourselves. There is nothing more rewarding that knowing you might have chartered the course of someone else’s day.
With that in mind, Charlotte offered a greeting for passerby’s which we affixed to a worn nail on an old trail board. It read:
As we continued walking, we found someone else had left a piece of themselves graffitied on the bridge that carried us over the marsh. It certainly did bring me joy.
3. Find Beauty to Take with You – It can be fun to play with photography in nature. Let your child photograph the experience. See how he interacts with nature, and what he finds awe-inspiring. Better still, you do not have to photograph to find beauty in nature. We are capable of holding these memories in the vessel of our awareness; find what speaks to you - study it, be grateful for it, and your mind will remember it.
Charlotte and I were mesmerized by the wild flowers, trees and natural landscape that surrounded us.
We ended our walk and Charlotte looked at me and said, “Mommy…. I’m HAPPY!” as she pushed out her hand that was tattooed with the word “happy.” I couldn’t ask for more.
Find your own mystery and wonder and relish in the feeling of contentment. I can’t wait to see you write your own story!