Here & there: For graduates in uncertain times

Undated photo illustration of a virtual graduation. | Photo by Mohammad Shahhosseini, Unsplash, St. George News

FEATURE — Sundays are for walking. So are Mondays and Saturdays and all the days in between. They didn’t used to be. But they are now. 

A walker on the Halfway Washington Trail in St. George, Utah, on April 17, 2020. | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

Sometimes I walk up mountains, picking my way over loose rock and nameless purple blooms. My dog darts in and out of sagebrush after white-tailed wild rabbits and occasionally stops to sniff the deer droppings.

Sometimes I walk over to the lush park a mile south of my house, marveling as I go at the mass of squirrels dancing along the network of branches and telephone wire overhead, taunting me with their rapid chatter at every opportunity. 

Sometimes I walk down the giant hill to the west and find new-to-me-paved trails that cut through half blocks of remodeled bungalows, allowing peaks into backyards and kitchen gardens ripe with lettuce, mint and rosemary. 

And sometimes I don’t walk anywhere in particular. I simply walk up, down and around on streets I haven’t seen, up paths I never have known and surprise myself. 

Some days I listen to audio books while I walk and some days I don’t. Instead, I listen to the birds chirping, the bees hiving and, when I’m lucky, children’s play bubbling out of backyards.

Western tent caterpillars in a tree on the Halfway Washington Trail in St. George, Utah, on April 17, 2020. | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

I walk to the market. I walk to leave chalk art on neighbor’s sidewalks. I walk to exercise. I walk to clear my head. I walk to be out in the world. 

Last Sunday as I was walking, I had a startling feeling: my world is significantly bigger than it used to. My world on foot that is. 

Even so, it’s a strange feeling. This bigger footprint. Because empirically one could easily argue that my world is actually smaller than it used to be. 

I am at home most of the day. And have been for weeks. 

When I’m not at home, I’m not far from it. And who knows when I will be again.

And yet I can’t deny what I felt on that Sunday walk. That certain bigness. 

My niece will be doing a different sort of walk next week: she’ll be graduating from high school. 

This year her walk, like so many other graduates around the country, will be figurative.

Entryway to the the virtual graduation at Desert Hills High School, St. George, Utah, April 29, 2020 | Photo courtesy of Steven Dunham, St. George News

She won’t actually walk across a stage to receive her diploma, shaking the hands of well-wishing teachers and administrators along the way. 

She won’t pause her walk to shift the tassel on her cap, broadly smiling in the direction of her parents who she knows are proud of how she stretched herself, of how hard she worked. 

She won’t walk to the podium to give her speech as senior class president. 

Instead, she’ll sit, in cap and gown, in the privacy of her own backyard. With an intimate circle of family. Live streaming her school’s remote graduation ceremony. 

Likely wondering what lies ahead. Wondering whether she’ll get to walk her planned path.

She’s supposed to go off to college in the fall. To Hawaii no less. 

In one of her college essays, she explained why she wanted to go so far from home: she’s worried she’s gone nose-blind to the beauties and wonders here. Here, where she took her first steps, where she broke her first bone, where she climbed her first mountain, where she had her first kiss. 

So, she wants to walk somewhere else for a while so she can come back and see her home with fresh eyes. With a fresh heart.

And I hope she’ll get to go. Oh, how I hope that for her. 

But even if she doesn’t. Even if the world is still uncertain come fall and she finds herself in the same place she’s always been, I want her to know something: Oh, the places you’ll still go!

You may simply have to explore them on foot for a while. 

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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