All Photographs: Gail Boenning

Morning Walks

On a recent trip to Florida, I shared a house rental with my extended family. We stayed in a quiet residential neighborhood near a park, school, city hall and police station. If not for the palm trees, lizards, tropical birds and deliciously warm mornings, I could have been strolling any middle class American neighborhood.

Walking was peaceful. I caught a break from human conversation and enjoyed songs of birds speaking a language I could not, nor did I have to try — to understand.

The movement fed my body, mind and soul. I was an adventurer exploring the unknown.

The first morning, I was a bit timid. I did not bring my phone and was completely unfamiliar with the area. I started around the block, making mental notes of street names and landmarks. I noticed four-way stops, traffic lights, landscape features and signs.

My home away from home intersection had a house with a for-sale sign — two men in navy blue suits flashing bright smiles upon it. I wondered about the people moving out of and into the stucco ranch with tiled roof and plumeria bush. What were their stories?

That first morning, I managed to head out and back several times from my starting point, always returning to the smiling, navy blue suited real-estate agents on the navy blue sign.

Day two — phone in hand, I was a bit braver. Using Map My Walk, I was able to track where I had been and to always find my way back to the flashing home dot on the screen. I had mental space to observe whatever attracted my eyes beyond the landmarks. I captured birds, scenery, squirrels and tropical flowers with a camera’s lens.

Day three was about getting some serious exercise. I was becoming comfortable with the lay of the land. The GPS and I made several large intersecting rectangles and an oval with a squiggly circumference through a park.

The world was more active on day three. It was a Monday, with carpools, crossing guards and school busses moving children. Adults were heading to work and traffic was heavier than it had been on Saturday and Sunday. It seemed everyone but me had some place to go at that early hour.

I found myself dragging my feet on the morning of day four. I had arrived home quite late from the previous nights wedding and risen with the sun — so that I could enjoy one last foray before heading to the airport. I relished the heat and now familiar surroundings.

Over four mornings, I observed my behavior evolve from cautious exploration to comfortable familiarity — a process repeated with each new life experience. It’s how we learn, how we grow amd how we conquer — one expedition at a time.

Author’s Photos — Neighborhood near Ft. Lauderdale Florida (Plantation)