In the Spring 2021 AAA Explorer magazine travel essayist Pico Iver shares a discovery that came to him and his wife as a result of the COVID lockdown. In The Wonders Close to Home he provides an enjoyable narrative of beginning the practice of taking walks with his wife in their Japanese neighborhood where they have lived for 28 years. Each day they would walk a different direction, discovering things they had never noticed before. A bamboo forest filled with Japanese bush warblers teaching their young to sing, an eighth-century pagoda, and a line of cherry trees shading rice paddies a mile long in length were among the many pleasurable discoveries they made right within their own neighborhood.
Soon he was called to the Santa Barbara, CA area to care for his ailing mother. He continued the new practice of daily walks and when his wife joined him in the States, they resumed their practice of walking together. Peacocks, foxes, and the blue Pacific Ocean enthralled them. They had spent time in the West for many years, but had never thought to walk beside the ocean. It became a daily blessing, in his words. He shared about their experiences along the beach and exploring around Santa Barbara. They never lacked for a place to visit and were never disappointed in not finding a unique discovery. As a world traveler of many years, he found that he could find wonder close to home as well as in some remote corner of the earth.
As I read this article, I knew exactly what he was sharing. I’ve enjoyed daily walks in my neighborhood for many years, starting long ago when my daughter was young and we would meet another mother and her daughters at the corner of our street every evening. In my early single years, I left the confines of my apartment complex every evening to walk in the nearby neighborhood. Now my walks are mostly in City parks with a dog as amiable company. I’ve found delight in the things I find along the way, making pictures and sharing here many times.
This past week I was reminded of the joy of experiencing my own community. We have been gifted beautiful weather with startling blue skies like an October day and very comfortable temperatures. After lunch I woke up the napping dog and loaded him in the car for a short drive to a park we had not visited in several months. It is my favorite park; the original acreage was donated to the City in the late 1800’s and is filled with history. It is also filled with sweet memories accumulated in my life. Its tranquility sooths me while I visit and travels home with me; I am renewed.
I’ve also come to enjoy daytrips where I travel for an hour or two and visit nearby communities. I love those small towns that are a little dusty and faded and I hope for their revival and restoration someday. The ones that have reinvented themselves and are thriving offer many pleasing hours of discovery. There are stories everywhere and things to see and experience. I don’t have to go far and return home after a day’s adventure. Perhaps there will be one this week.
I’m hungry for a road trip and in the evenings find my mind wandering to places I’ve been and long to return to as well as those places I’ve never visited, but have on the to-visit list. COVID still keeps me at home and when I do head out for the next trip, I will appreciate the freedom to travel that I have dearly missed. In the meantime, I remind myself of all the pictures I’ve made that need to be tagged and organized and all the research I need to do on those places. And, then, there’s the writing that needs to be done. So for now, I travel virtually some as well as vicariously through the past as I work through putting past travels in order.
The world is inexhaustible, if only we can open our eyes and look with more care at what we so often take for granted.–Pico Iver