There is a cool nip in the air. Afterall, that’s why I am outside at 2:30 in the morning, dressed in my pajamas and flip-flops. My son has been sick. His croup-like cough has led us into the night with hopes the cool air will give his airways some relief.

As my son and I walk hand-in-hand down the sidewalk, I’m startled by the sound of a neighbor’s sprinklers. The wet sizzle of the air clearing itself through the sprinkler heads changes to a rhythmic staccato as my heartbeat fades in my ears. A train whistle announces its distant approach. Our heads cock toward the sound and our eyes turn toward the valley. We know we’re both in a race to see who can spot the train first. Amongst the flashing stoplights, flickering streetlights and pairs of pacing headlights, my son excitedly points first and claims to have spotted it.

Once we reach the point where the sidewalk ends and we turn toward home, he notices our shadows have joined us on our nighttime stroll. As I begin to sing, “I’m being followed by a moon shadow,” he does a small dance and laughs at his shadow’s antics. He tells me he knows the sun is a star and that the moon is not. I tell him he’s pretty smart for a five year old.

We’ve never walked through the neighborhood at this hour; really, as a mom who emphasizes the importance of sleep, we’ve never walked together in the darkness. It’s different. I can sense the vigor increase in us both as our senses soak up this unfamiliar combination of familiar sights and sounds.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about experiencing the unfamiliar in the context of the familiar. Actually, ever since I read about The Omaha Walk.

The Omaha Walk is a project by Kevin Lawler who, over three days, completed a 70-mile journey on foot around Omaha. On his website, he writes about the motivation for The Omaha Walk:

I have been spending so much time on my computer for work lately and then driving to so many places that are so far apart for meetings and classes and meals and a thousand other things. It makes me sad when these things begin to take up the majority of my time. I needed to step away from these patterns for a few days. I am a sensory/sensual person. I needed to try to get back in touch with my body traveling through space of its own accord. I also needed to try to find a deeper connection to our landscape, to this place that I call home.

I first read about The Omaha Walk via Inkline Press and Studio on Facebook. Posted by Jaim Hackbart, a local artist, educator and owner of Inkline Press who I met at Emerging Terrain’s elevATE event, she was among a small group of people who helped document Lawler’s journey.

What captured my imagination about this project wasn’t the fact he was walking 70 miles, or that he would be exploring new areas. No, what grabbed me was his chance to see areas he had already seen — perhaps hundreds of times — but in a new way.

One of my good friends years ago had a teenaged niece who had taken to sleeping on the dining room table. When the family questioned his sister about it, she just shrugged and responded, “She’s just looking for a new perspective.”

While my friend’s family shook their heads and chalked it up to just another one of those crazy things, I instantly understood. I knew sometimes the simplest shift in perspective can feed your spirit, inspire your mind, and help you make connections between it all.

There are a lot of bloggers out there taking on a lot of different challenges: do something every day that scares you; make a bucket list and start crossing off items; make a better you through healthier living. The lists go on and on. And while I certainly believe those are worthy pursuits, I think I’ll pass for now.

Right now, I’m just going to look at my life like I’m on my own 70-mile journey. There are no to-do lists for a successful journey. There are no tips or tricks or suggestions or recommendations. Really, I have no idea what this journey is to look like. All I know is that to see and experience the unfamiliar in the familiar, I need to be aware; be open; and to take my time. Oh, and dancing with your moon shadow helps, too.

 

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