A Morning Walk, and Back to School I Go

My father has always been a man of ritual. Such constant structure did not always float my boat as I was growing up, especially as my own little wings began to blossom. Even to this day I work hard to strike a balance between routine and spontaneity, always being highly organized and prepared with a little more flying by the seat of my pants. Some days, for example, I wish I could just “wing it” in my classroom like a few of my teaching colleagues do or hit the road on a Friday afternoon for a spur-of-the-moment road trip to Woodstock. Alas…

One of my dad’s rituals that I still hold dear and practice now that I’m a teacher is taking a long walk on my last day of summer vacation. It feels like yesterday on a late August afternoon, around 4:30 like clockwork, that he would find me wherever I was, galloping around the backyard or lounging on the deck with my nose in a book, to take me on a walk, either around our property a couple of times or up to the park at the top of the hill.

I was a shy kid, an awkward teenager. A quiet introvert through and through, even with my dad, who worked and commuted to and fro the city more than I saw him. To be honest, there were moments in the high school and college years when I sort of wished we could just forgo the whole annual walk thing. I don’t feel like talking today. I barely know this guy. He doesn’t know me, that’s for sure. Maybe I have something better to do at 4:30. And then he would put his arm around my shoulder and start to talk as we walked along…about his own memories of school, the big questions he had struggled to answer, his faith, his parents, his wins, his losses, all the different roads he had walked along. And I gradually realized the thing I have come to cherish, especially in these winter years, when we both know there is a lot less road ahead than there used to be: we’re the same, he and I. He has known me all along.

And so I took my walk this morning in a nearby park to celebrate an amazing summer (albeit ridiculously sweltering) and to reflect upon the year of teaching that awaits me tomorrow morning. A blank slate, a snow-white piece of paper on which to start fresh and anew–perhaps the greatest gift of this vocation. I breathed in the woods, drank in the quiet, spotted a little friend sitting under a tree, walked and walked. And then, though I could imagine Henry David Thoreau and John Muir cringing from the big woods in the sky, I took my iPhone out of my pocket and texted my dad a photo of my morning path.

Here is a link (HuffPost) you may enjoy:  17 Literary Quotes about the Joy of Walking

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A spotted friend staring me down
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A tiny swamp along the way…
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A fresh new school year ahead…

Channeling Thoreau

Henry David Thoreau said that an early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day. As always, he was right. My eyes popped open around 6:30 this morning (oh, the luxury of summers off without an alarm clock chirping before 6), and so I decided to take a walk before another hot, humid day trapped me inside by the air conditioner.  Today’s jaunt wasn’t about lowering my cholesterol or trimming my waistline, though I did pick up the pace a few times; no, I just meandered through the sidewalks of one of the nearby seashore towns, up to the boardwalk, and down to the ocean, where I promptly took off my flip flops and plunked my toes in the sea.  Icy!  Wonderful!

Take a look at the flowers and seaside houses I spotted along the way….

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The perfect way to begin this Friday. So how better to end it than with one firecracker of a storm. You know the kind. Big jagged streaks of lightning in the sky, loud claps of thunder that send a cat scurrying under the bed (well, Mimi did anyway), and torrential rains that wash the street clean and leave deep soppy puddles in the grass.  One of summer’s best bits.  I’m sure Thoreau would agree.  Don’t you?