"Cars are for going places," my son said when he was 12. "Walking is for seeing places."
He was right but there's more.
I cherish every moment with my son. If we're walking, we get there slower—we have more time together. Walking is also for seeing and hearing each other.
There's something about walking, the movement, the rhythm of our steps, that helps us talk.
As he and I have gotten older, I've sometimes found it hard to speak his language or to understand what he is trying to tell me.
When we walk, it all comes easier. I don't know what it is exactly; I just know it works. When I sense he is frustrated with me, or I catch myself pontificating at him, I know it's time for a walk.
"Come on Jony, let's get out of here and go see if there's any fish jumping at the falls."
It doesn't matter the excuse, anything I think he'll fall for.
It might be the fresh air, the extra blood flowing, it might be the change of scenery, the soothing effect of connecting with the natural world or it might just be the distraction from our overly ego-charged worlds.
Out there putting one foot in front of the other, we are no longer father and son as much as we are travelling companions—it becomes totally obvious we are just two guys walking the same path.
One day when he was 18, he took me for walk along the brook in Balmoral near Tatamagouche. He had spent the summer installing digger logs and deflectors to protect fish habitat.
He walked and he showed me his work, told me stories. At one point he was standing in the brook, with a piece of rebar in his hand. He held it with an ease and comfort that showed me the work had become part of him. He stood there so strong, so confident, so able. It was the moment I clued in: he was a man.
- photo by Jonathan Riley">
- View the gallery
Last week, I asked my grandmother to show me what flowers were blooming around her house. It's impossible to talk of plants without talking about when they were planted, what the weather was like that year. Before you know it I was hearing stories that never seem to come out in the comfort of the living room. I think we covered more territory on that little walk than I can do in a weekend of hard-core hiking.
Recently, hiking up the ski hill at Wentworth, I had the good fortune to be walking with Dave Wilson, a pioneer of the 'ski industry' in Nova Scotia.
We walked slowly up the Chickadee, a long flat rambling trail along a brook where I have spent years of my life introducing school children to skiing. Dave knew this side of the mountain when there was only woods.
He told me about dropping a ball and watching it roll to figure out where to build the trails.
He had a story for every rock, every tree, every twist of the brook.
I have always known Dave as an older man. Entertaining to be sure and a shrewd businessman. But here before me was a man who built a mountain.
The car for all its benefits has robbed us of something. In our haste to get places, we are missing out not only on the world around us, but on each other.
Slow down, take some time and walk with your important people.