The other day I walked by a young girl who lives on our street, sitting outside on the bottom step, reading a book. I felt an instant camaraderie with her, as a reader, first, but specifically as an outdoor reader.
When we moved into Centretown, which is in downtown Ottawa, we downsized in a massive way. The impact of less space was more than I bargained for. I feel like we went from too big to too small. But what we gave up in bedrooms and bathrooms, we gained in city blocks. What happens, I have realized, is that a small space propels you out into the world more than a bigger space does, at least that’s true for me. Where a bigger space might say: “Lounge around in here all day. There’s plenty of room.” A smaller space yells: “Get out!”
Your neighbourhood becomes an essential part of your home. I guess this is why people sit on their city stoops.
I walk my neighbourhood, on average, three times a day. I especially enjoy it in the evening, when the grit and grime are cloaked by darkness and the lights and activity provide their own show and beauty. A walk is often one of the last things I do before going to bed. I walk more slowly these days, because Dewey has slowed down so much, but he is still always eager to be my walking partner. He’s the only companion of mine who has never said no to a walk, and I don’t think he ever will.
I’ve written before about the power of walking for writing and planning just about anything. Walking is an essential part of my writing life. It’s also a core part of my rule of life, which is how I organize this chapter of my spiritual life. Sometimes I walk listening to sacred music. Often, during First Walk, I listen to a daily liturgy podcast, which helps me begin my day well. On Second Walk, I find myself these days walking with Ruth Haley Barton in my air pods, as I work through her Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership podcast. Third Walk I might call my parents or my sister, or sometimes I intentionally try to do nothing and just be in the outdoor space I have come to depend upon so much.