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Walk on, Walk on..., Stay safe*

Going for a walk this morning, I realized I was retracing the steps of a NeighborWalk we led four years ago. We named the two mile loop “Alameda Ridge and Beaumont Village”. 96 enthusiastic walkers gathered in front of St Rose of Lima Church on a crisp May morning. We strolled through the neighborhood, up to Fremont, and back to Alameda where we discovered long stairways down the ridge, enjoying the view and spring blossoms. Finishing at the German-American Society, we were treated German delicacies and performances by singers in traditional dress.

I remember the camaraderie of new friends mixed with complete strangers—the simple pleasure of sharing a walk with others, knowing we would be seeing each other again in two weeks to explore another neighborhood. There was laughter and hugs. Pats on the back. Shared conversation in coffee shops afterwards.

Given our current Coronavirus crisis, I can’t imagine now walking shoulder to shoulder with a hundred individuals. This morning, while I encountered at least that many on my Alameda outing, out of courtesy we worked to avoid each other, crossing the street when others approached. I don’t believe I’ve ever seem so many people out walking. Parents biking with their children told them to watch out for walkers. The flowering trees are just as beautiful as they were in four years ago. The birds are still singing, the nods of strangers continue to signal hello. But the mood is different. There is little laughter.

Pastel chalk messages of hope appear on sidewalks and fences. Encouraging words of strength are written on signs and featured in poetry posts. We’re putting teddy bears in windows for children on bear scavenger hunts. The chicken coop my granddaughter and I have visited for a year, now has photos and stories of each chicken. Their guardians must figure its the closet thing we have to going to a zoo. We are trying to support each other from a safe distance, finding creative ways to say “hang in there, it’s going to be ok”.

Now more than ever, we need the out of doors, the satisfaction of a good walk, ways to connect. Perhaps there’s a lesson from nature: the tree that bent will find a way to grow upright again. Download the map and handout from this link to the walk we did in 2017. If you’re in that neck of woods, explore it. If not, we’ll be posting other walks in other neighborhoods. Until we can do NeighborWalks together again, we hope these routes inspire you. Keep on walking.

* Title, credit to U2’s “Walk On”
Photo credit: Elaine Friesen-Strang

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