When I married the love of my life, Richard, he came as a package with Molly, his bright and often willful four-year-old daughter. Almost from the first, Molly and I began taking walks. We walked to the nearby park with its swings and slides; we walked downtown to the library and the food co-op; we walked to the university campus to meet her dad after work. Sometimes we skipped hand in hand; sometimes we walked fast to stay warm; sometimes we dawdled and counted sidewalk slabs.
We were unwittingly following in the footsteps of Henry David Thoreau, who extolled the delights of “sauntering,” exploring one’s home ground on foot. Although our walks were not, as Thoreau prescribed, completely without itinerary, the ambles Molly and I took honored the spirit of sauntering: our aim was simply to get outside together and see what we found.
We walked to experience the journey, not just to reach the destination. If arriving at a particular place had been our sole objective, we would have used the car.
Traveling on foot forced us to slow down, allowed us slip away from our too-harried daily routines, to listen to whatever came up and share what we encountered.
We traced ant trails, sniffed ground-hugging violet blossoms, picked up autumn leaves, craned our necks to decipher the shapes of passing clouds; we watched crows jockeying for position in nighttime roost trees and spotted fireflies signaling in blips of green light.
And we grew a relationship: joined by marriage rather than by birth, Molly and I had to negotiate disparate family cultures.
Walking gave us a territory of our own, a place we could start fresh away from the disputes that regularly rocked our blended household. Rambling with no agenda forced Molly and me to leave our baggage at home, allowing us to meet relatively unencumbered.
And a funny thing happened: When we strolled arm-in-arm, people commented on our “resemblance.”
Molly, with her father’s elegant height, high cheekbones, and dark hair would look down at me, half a head shorter with red-blond hair and freckles, and giggle uncontrollably. Clearly, they were seeing something we could not see.
Walking brought Molly and I together, stepmother to stepdaughter. Walking also re-connected us to the natural world, restoring a source of mental and spiritual renewal available to all who ramble.
What we didn’t expect, though, was that those thousands of steps would walk each one of us right into the other’s heart. The resemblance people see in the two of us is under the surface rather than an outward one: it’s the love we share.
Today is Molly’s 32nd birthday. Happy Birthday, honey!
(Excerpted from Walking Nature Home, A Life’s Journey, by Susan J. Tweit)
Susan J. Tweit is the award-winning author of twelve books (including her memoir, Walking Nature Home: A Life’s Journey, and Colorado Scenic Byways, winner of the Colorado Book Award), hundreds of magazine articles, radio commentaries and newspaper columns.