I am writing this blog on a Tuesday in mid-October. Outside my window the trees are full of vibrant colors which are reflected in a nearby lake. I look forward to my daily walk in public parks or around this community lake where I live. I have become entranced by spotting and counting the ducks, geese, turtles, and frogs along the way, which I then tally on a chart at home to share with my grandchildren. I am excited to listen for the birds flitting in the shrubs, watch the sky for honking geese flying in formation, check the cattail reeds for elusive turtles sunning themselves, and delight in the rhythmic sounds made by the little bullfrogs on the stones beneath a footbridge. While some may consider Autumn a little depressing because it means the long hours of warmth from the summer sun are diminishing and the leaves will inevitably fall, I enjoy the beauty of each season and welcome the pumpkins, corn stalks, and bright colored chrysanthemums now decorating peoples‘ yards.
That is why I came home today from my glorious walk shaking my head. Along my path I saw a good number of people walking briskly or slowly tugging their sniffing dogs by their leashes, joggers, and bikers passing me by. I intentionally make eye contact, usually say hi, and wave hello to each person along my way even if I am approaching a stranger. If I happen to see someone I know, I am happy for a momentary chat and personal connection before moving on. What I saw today was mostly people distracted during their walk and oblivious to nature and other people around them. They were talking on their cell phones, wearing earbuds to tune in to podcasts, music, or audiobooks, or even swiping through their emails, eyes averted downward while on the go. They were preoccupied because multitasking is their priority; walking alone and just focusing on being part of the world around them is not enough.
I am reminded of Thomas Jefferson’s jaunty hip-hop dance number in the musical “Hamilton” when he returns to a changed America after several years abroad. He sings “ What’d I Miss?” I think of all the simple pleasures that don’t require status, technology, or lots of money but still are missed by many. In a few weeks we will look back on this glorious mild weather and wish it would last for a few more months. Right now the outdoors is our refuge to breathe a little easy and socially distance while COVID-19 makes a second pass at us. Seize the day! Carpe diem! Bundle up if you need to, but try to spend time outdoors: walk, sit on a bench and observe, pack a picnic, go for a hike, pick apples, rake some leaves, take a ride out to the country, do whatever it takes to connect with this wondrous time of year. Your soul will thank you.
By: Fran Bulloff, VTI President