Hyla never walks in a straight line…

Posted: May 26, 2010 in Notes from the Daddy Front
Tags: , , , , , ,

Hyla never walks in a straight line.

I’ve taken to calling her “Gravel Girl” because when we walk on the sidewalks here she always walks on the gravel that lines the side of the paths here. And not just the gravel. She also walks on the grates, the hills, steps on every post and kicks every stone. Never a straight line. Never.

She is also fond of looking under every rock, examines everything that falls from the trees and finds endless fascination with the tropical wonders of every seed and coconut that comes from above.

I remember my mother telling me that I used to do the same. I would make sure I stepped on every crack in the sidewalk, climbed every hill, stepped in every puddle and explored every snow bank.

When I ask her why she does this she looks at me with a bemused look on her face and says, “Because it’s fun Daddy”. And she’s right. It looks like fun. So, I’ve started to wonder why I always walk in a straight line.

As an adult I always seem to have a destination. If I’m moving it’s usually because I’m going somewhere. And when I’m going somewhere, that’s where I’m going. But for Hyla it’s not about the destination. The fun is in the journey. Every time we have some place to go she turns it into an endless exploration of all that surrounds her. Every bit of stimuli piques her attention and requires further examination.

We live in such a fast paced world. Email. Faxes. Text messages. Phone calls and voice mail. We always seem to have someplace to go and never seem to have enough time to get there. But not Hyla. She delights in the mundane, finds pleasure in every treasure and collects stones, shells and seeds like prizes.

And, of course, I used to do the same. I used to have quite a collection of childhood treasures that others might call junk but to me were as cherished as the material things that I’ve accumulated as an adult. When did all that change? Somewhere along the line I became focussed on the destination and lost sight of the fun of the journey. And that’s why I’m so impressed with her meandering.

Who knows what might be under that rock, in that snow bank or under that puddle? I know it sound mundane but not to her. To her, the world is her oyster and these shells are her pearls.

About three years ago a friend of mine observed that I always seemed to be rushing places, that I moved too fast and that it was exhausting watching me move through life. She suggested that I make a big sign that said, “Slow Down” and that I put it up in my house. And I actually did it. For about four months every time I came downstairs there it was in big bold letters on a big piece of bristle board. “Slow Down”.

They say that you should you be careful what you wish for because you might get it and sure enough, after four months of looking at “Slow Down” I was in a serious accident that cost me most of the use of my left leg. I spent three months in a hospital bed and then another six months in rehab learning how to walk again. During those months, as I moved about in a wheelchair, I sure moved a lot slower and over the next few years as I gradually reclaimed the use of that leg I noticed that not only had this physically slowed me down but that I was calmer, more focussed, and more patient with life’s little annoyances.

Slowly, I came to like the new me. I liked the calm, enjoyed the slower pace and started to notice that I was much more focussed on the journey as getting places began to consume much of my time. In the past six months I’ve shed my cane and crutches and now walk almost normally. I still limp when I’m tired and my running days are behind me but I’m now very mobile and thrilled with my progress.

I thought that my new Zen-like state was complete until I noticed Hyla walking in the gravel and then I realized that even though I’m moving and living more slowly, I’m still about the destination and not the journey. And I think that’s about to change.

Yesterday I walked with Hyla on the gravel and joined her as she walked sideways on the hills and explored every nook and cranny and you know what? I had a ball. We found a salamander under a rock that we played with for about 15 minutes and then we planted a seed that we found, resolving to come back in a year to see if it became a tree. We even found a penny that we also planted because Hyla wanted to see if a money tree would grow. Apparently tonight we’re going to plant a piece of spaghetti to see… well, you know.

I no longer have a sign in my living room and I’ve become much more mobile but Hyla has reminded me that if I do slow down there might be a salamander under that rock and that is a very cool thing, indeed. Today we’re going to walk on the beach and I’ve decided that we’re going to kick at the waves and stop for lots of sandcastles. I’m going try to move even more slowly and to enjoy the journey because life shouldn’t really be about the destination. I’m no longer going to walk in a straight line because now, the journey is going to be much more fun.

And I can’t wait for next year’s spaghetti harvest!


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