The art of being Californian, it seems, is to cultivate a loose-limbed insouciance while secretly working away like a frantic ant.

--Richard Fortey The Earth: An Intimate History

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Walk in the Park

When I was in San Diego last week, my favorite moments were the ones when I walked/ran with my friend C and her 3yo daughter around Balboa Park. We'd meet in the morning and take turns pushing the red Baby Jogger down the arched corridors, across the light-strung El Prado bridge, through gardens, and around fountains and museums. Being fairly flat, the park is the perfect place to run while burdened with a 50lb stroller. C and I would traverse the outdoor space, moving through sun and shadow, making easy conversation about things like our kids or delving into deeper topics about things like vocation and community. Often we'd run for stretches in silence, our feet marking a tandem rhythm.

On our last walk, we decided to eschew the level and paved terrain of the park proper and headed down into the canyon trails that run along the 163. These trails are magical. In an instant, you can leave behind an entire city, becoming sequestered under tall oaks and rust-colored hills, before unexpectedly popping out in the middle of Hillcrest right next to a coffee shop. The trails are steep, rocky, and full of ruts and runnels from the recent rain, with the surrounding foliage glowing an impossibly vivid green. Our route took us up and down and around hills, under boughs and bridges, over the 163, and up to Hillcrest city streets and a well-deserved cup of coffee.

Because the trails were so steep at times, C and I took turns pushing the stroller, laughing at the burning in our legs, encouraging each other to push just a little further, then taking the burdensome stroller from the exhausted pusher just at the right time. In at least two places on the trail, neither of us could push the stroller alone, and so both of us grabbed a side of the handle and used our combined force to get the stroller over or down the current obstacle. At one point, we jointly reached the summit a particularly steep incline before realizing that we needed to take a different trail. Instead of lamenting the energy we'd just expended as wasted, we grinned at each other--acknowledging the duo accomplishment we'd made in getting up the hill in the first place. Then we each took a firm grip on a side of the stroller handle and, with bent knees, our torsos arching back to offset the pull of gravity, we eased the stroller back down the hill and to the correct trail.

This trek embodied community: together, C and I shared a burden without judgement and with joy and grace and love, helping and encouraging the other as needed. We didn't keep score of who pushed the stroller more--it didn't matter that her daughter was in the stroller; we both knew it could just as easily be my son.

And more importantly, we knew that ultimately the exact nature of the burden didn't matter.

What mattered was that we were in it together. That we set out committed to walking a certain path and to help each other finish it. The point wasn't to be done--or even to always be on the right trail so that we wouldn't waste any energy or time. The point was to do it together. There was no need to get resentful while pushing the stroller up a steep hill when C was four feet ahead and stroller-free because the whole time, she was looking back with encouragement and love. Further, she would--when I needed it most--meet me and take the burden on herself so that I could rest. There was no need to be frustrated if after a difficult part, we found we had gone the wrong way because, as long as we stayed in community, there was no wrong way.

At the end of our walk, scalding coffee in our left hands and both our rights directing the stroller through the side streets of Hillcrest, C walked me by some of the places she'd lived in San Diego. It was a moment of such familial and familiar friendship. Sharing with her the joy of her past, the control and direction of the present embodied in her daughter in the stroller, and the infinite possibilities of the future together in community.

Thank you, C. Love you.

1 comment:

  1. I love it. Makes me want to push a stroller with you/