What I learned while walking backwards…
Last night I had a strange experience. I took an evening walk in my neighborhood, the lower hills above Dimond & Laurel (we’re right on the cusp), and decided to walk a different way from my usual route.
I walk frequently in my neighborhood because it’s sooooo damn pretty… extensive exotic gardens and established trees & landscaping, native creek habitats (we’re bordered by two… Sausal and Peralta), and sweeping views of the lowlands, bay, and beyond.
I’ve come to know the various blocks and individual houses, mostly by their gardens… oh, here’s that amazing succulent garden with dwarf japanese maples; or the fenced-in fruit orchard with its citrus, figs, apples, & peaches; the stunning palm & cacti landscape perfectly complementing the mid-century condos behind; the tiny craftsman cottage with an explosion of dahlias filling its front yard; and the bird lover’s paradise, with no fewer than 7 bird feeders hanging from the ancient oak tree in front.
Much as I love these regular stops, and witnessing the transformations that come with the changing seasons, I was craving a change; and feeling comfortable enough in my now-not-so-new neighborhood to explore where I had not gone before… to try a new street, to turn left instead of right, to wander without a particular destination in mind. How often do we allow ourselves the time & space to do this? Not enough I would say.
I walked along unfamiliar streets noting new gardens, houses, and points of interest as the light of day faded and deep blue crept into the sky above the hills. Despite my exercise in free exploration, I did intend to find my way home before nightfall…
As I continued up a curving road, one I thought might head me back in the direction of home, an elderly asian man approached from the opposite direction. I decided to ask him for directions (at my age, practicality often trumps reckless abandon). He didn’t speak much English (and I, no Chinese). But he pointed in the direction I was headed and said something about 35th, which needless to say, is not where I wanted to go. But I trudged on thinking something would become evident sooner or later. It’s hard to get too lost in the lower hills with the beacon of the Mormon Temple visible from most vantage points.
As I made my way up and around the bend, it seemed I was in a familiar place, yet everything looked so different. I’d never seen that house before. And look at the gorgeous intricate brickwork on that patio… I surely would have noticed that before. It was like I was walking the same path but somehow the reality around me had been altered. And when I hit the top of the hill I understood why.
I reached the junction where I could turn left and make my way down the closed road that runs along Peralta creek. This was the way I typically walked, but I had approached it from the opposite direction. And somehow that made all the difference.
I think the effect was magnified due to the hills… when you are walking down a slope, you see what’s below you… and when heading up you see what’s above you. It’s different than walking on flat ground where you can see all around.
So I wasn’t really walking backwards… but the choice to take a different route than usual, or even just a different direction, had a dramatic effect on my perception.
It’s easy to get into our routines, to do the things we’ve done so many times we don’t have to think about them, or pay attention at all because we already know what to expect. And when we anticipate what we are going to see/experience, that’s pretty much what we see/experience.
So shake it up peeps… take the road less traveled. Try something different. Change your routine. Explore. You just might discover something amazing.