“Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.”-Unknown
The Mayo Clinic lists a multitude of benefits that a brisk walk can have on our physical and mental well being. Some of these include: improving cardiovascular fitness, increasing energy levels, improving mood, and reducing stress (Mayo Clinic: Link). These are all positive effects of a walk, but they aren’t the reason I like going for walks, I do it for the memories and the best memories are from after dinner walks.
I have gone for many an after dinner walk, as I am sure that most people have; of those not all have been memorable but some of them have. Some walks were for the purpose of exercise, others a means to travel from one location to another, sometimes I just need to clear my head or burn off that second helping of dinner. While the majority of the walks I have taken did not leave an imprint in my brain, some have and of those most are pleasant memories, but a few not so much.
I will recall one bad experience because it serves as a reminder to me that not all people have good intentions when they see you walking by yourself at night and we should be cautious. The situation I found myself was not dangerous, rather it was embarrassing, but it does demonstrate that we should be aware of our surroundings; especially if we venture out alone or at night. This particular walk occurred when I was living in Arizona. I was trying to lose weight and was walking for the purpose of exercise; after dinner I had put on my headphones and gone for a walk around the neighborhood I was living in at the time. I was a few blocks away from home and lost in my own head, listening to the beat of the music as my footsteps hit the ground. I didn’t notice the truck slowing beside me or the rowdy teenagers inside. Instead it was what I felt as a soda and ice filled paper cup hit me in the back and neck as they threw it at me and drove off in raucous laughter. To this day I don’t understand why they felt compelled to do that nor do I see how anyone could think that was funny, but I am thankful that was the worst of it. It could have been worse, and it was certainly embarrassing; the uncomforabte walk back home could not come to an end soon enough. Lesson learned to not walk alone at night and no matter what time I am walking to be more aware of what is happening around me.
Alright with that out of the way let’s talk about some pleasant memories of going walking and why I enjoy my after dinner walks so much these days.
My grandfather loved going for walks. It seemed that he preferred walking to driving as he would walk to the grocery store when he just needed a couple of things or walk to the post office to drop off mail instead of leaving it for the mail carrier. He would put on his straw hat and his sunglasses and set out from the house. I remember joining him on a lot of these walks and while I was happy to be with him, it was certainly not really a leisurely stroll. My grandfather walked faster than anyone else I have ever walked with; he glided effortlessly down the street at a pace that left me frantically trying to keep pace and catch my breathe. We did not have too many conversations on these walks, mostly because I was not able to breathe that hard and talk at the same time; but also because I think he just enjoyed the peace and the silence of the walk and I just enjoyed being there by his side. Papa Dale has been gone for over five years now, but what I wouldn’t give to walk with him again.
Other memories of after dinner walks bring us to our local mountains where my family would gather each October for a weekend of conversation, puzzles, games and you guessed it; walks. The cabin we stayed in on this annual trip sat in the middle of this everlasting hill. You did not start a walk by going down the hill (unless you were going to town, which we did a few times) because the further down the hill you went, the further up hill the trek was back to the cabin. My grandfather, uncle’s, and my dad would take the grandkids out for a walk after dinner. We would get all bundled up in our jackets, beanies and gloves and the adults would grab the flash lights (because there are not street lights up there and it is darker than dark) and at least one golf club or something similar in case we encountered a random dog or other animal trying to be a nuisance. We would then venture up the hill and get lost in the streets lined with cabins and pine trees, winding our way around until we spotted our cabin once again. I am a bit of an anxious person, and not so much a fan of the dark now nor when I was younger, so while I enjoyed the time with family I was thankful when these walks came to an end. My uncle is a bit a prankster so he liked to make up stories about the cabins that looked abandoned or feign a noise that might spook us grandkids. We always made it back to the cabin safely though, albeit a little cold, and now these walks are memories that I look back on fondly.
The walks I take these days will be memories I can reflect on later; memories I making with my son Brooks. A couple of times a week I will take Brooks out for a walk around the neighborhood (I have talked about these walks in a previous post, One Foot In Front Of The Other). We start off the walk by letting Brooks choose which direction we are headed, as he swings his arms one way or the other and shouts “Left” or “Right” (most of the time he is pointing the right direction as well). We have a familiar route that we take, sometimes veering onto new streets depending on our pace and how much time we have. Brooks collects rocks for his mom along the way, walks on top of every brick wall he sees, and has a keen eye for big trucks or trash cans that peak his interest. He has a little step he likes to sit on at one house, a fence that sits under a telephone wire where the birds “do their business” that he likes to point out, a hedge that he likes to hide in, that bush that a bunny ran out of that one time. The walk itself is always the same because of these things, but the time I get to spend with Brooks is priceless. I hope that Brooks will want to continue this tradition of after dinner walks in the spring and summer for many years to come, and I hope there are many more memories to be made along the path we take.
So yeah, after dinner walks have a positive effect on our physical well being and mental health; and they are certainly a good activity to engage in for those reasons. While I appreciate those effects of walking, I walk for the memories. As I pass under the tree a couple of houses down I remember chasing after my grandfather in an effort to keep up; as I walk with my family now I remember those cold nights in the mountains as a kid. My hope is that you are able take an after dinner walk of your own and see what memories might be made along the way.