Written by Karen D. Swim
In the past several months I have been forced happy to walk everywhere I go. My most frequent errand is to the grocery store so I have spent a great deal of time traveling the same routes. Since there are only so many routes I’ve gotten to know the stretch of roads between me and food very well.
The great thing about walking is that you really get to know your community. You notice the smallest details when you’re not whizzing by in your car while talking on the phone (not that I talk and drive mind you). I have memorized the bumps in the road, the best places to cross without becoming road kill, even the way every neighbor positions their trash can on collection day. So, even when the ground is covered with snow, I know the places to adjust my footing and those to be avoided all together.
However, one day this winter, my route taught me a lesson I will not soon forget.
It was a typical winter day, cold, with a couple of feet of snow on the ground. Faced with eating olive oil and unsweetened banana chips, I piled on layers and headed for the grocery store. I waddled out the door resembling the Michelin man with lipstick. I made it to the store in record time and whistled as I collected my groceries. At the checkout I packed my groceries in my backpack and a second canvas sack which I would carry in my hand.
I knew the most slippery parts of my sidewalk route and gingerly avoided them. I reached the part in my route where I would step up on a small grass embankment, climb up a tiny hill and down again to reach my house. I could actually see my house from this point. I began whistling again and marched on with a spring in my step. I had bought my favorite tea and was looking forward to a piping hot cup when I got home.
I slowed down and walked around the slippery part and with the hill within reach, my feet lifted high in the air and I found myself flat on my back (cushioned only slightly by the backpack bulging with groceries). My hat had flown off my head and in my shock the first thing I did was smooth my hair and worry frantically that I had hat hair in public with no mirror to check.
I rose slowly, and grabbed my hat and the few parcels that had escaped the bag. Certain that nothing was broken I carried on, a bit slower and with a bit of dignity loss. I knew the route. I had traveled it many times. How on earth had I managed to fly in the air like a cartoon character?
I learned that day that even the well-traveled sidewalk holds a few surprises, much like life itself. We can grow comfortable in our trusted routes and routines and then get thrown (literally) for a loop when we stop paying attention. I also learned that eggs really can survive a fall. I still walk that same sidewalk nearly every day, but now I give it the respect and attention it deserves, and I carry a mirror, just in case.
This post is a contribution to Robert Hruzek’s What I Learned From a Sidewalk Group Writing Project. I hope you will consider taking part by sharing your own sidewalk reflections.