When John and I first moved to Seattle we lived in the area known as lower Queen Anne, in a ramshackle apartment with no parking and a dreary forever-damp shared laundromat. It was decidedly unfancy but offered a sweeping view of the Sound, where we could peer around the stacks of a grain mill to watch sparkling cruise ships glide into the bay alongside the dark hulking slabs of cargo ships and jaunty angled sailboats.

That’s where I can first remember going on walks together, leaving our mostly-crummy neighborhood for the spectacular mansions further up the hill. The climb to fancy upper Queen Anne is a steep one, and later when John was training to summit Mt. Rainier he would wear a backpack weighted down with milk jugs filled with water.

When we moved to Bellevue and entered the small-children stage of life we relished walking there when we could, pushing a stroller or wearing a carrier. Walks felt like a luxury, a bit of a risk during our longer loops (naptimes, diaper blowouts, feedings — it never felt like a good idea to be too far from home), and they eventually petered down to the outings that are specific to toddlerhood: a slow, short, meandering journey filled with the aching marvel of sharing their excitement (another squirrel, can you believe it) but also the frustration that comes with matching a young child’s erratic pace. (I remember joking that it felt like we were trying to ever-so-slowly escape a sandworm from Dune.)

For years we went walking as a family, and we still sometimes do. Riley will sometimes amble alongside with one Airpod in place so he can exist in his preferred state of Technically Present But Immersed in That Mumbly Hip-Hop All the Kids Are Into These Days, Dylan might ride his bike in lazy loops around us.

Most of the time, though, John and I go out on our own. The kids don’t see the appeal of walking the same path day in and day out but we sure do. Our walk — and I think of it this way, as a route that’s somehow ours alone — takes us out of our immediate neighborhood, past a park, and around some nearby streets. We move at a brisk pace for about forty minutes, passing familiar houses as we step over piles of jewel-toned leaves in the fall, navigate muddy puddles in winter, work up a sweat in the high buzz of summer.

We’ve talked about so many things on these walks. Business, friendships, the kids, their school, our lives, our future, family, current events. We’ve had walks where the things that were left unsaid hung in the air beside us, a roiling darkness we could not escape. We’ve walked in companionable silence, lost in our own thoughts and dreams.

I could not have predicted how important this ritual would become to me, how the body movement would come to feel so good and necessary, how the head-clearing time away from the computer and household noise would be such a critical recharge, how the time spent together would add to the sometimes-shaky foundations holding up our marriage.

What seems most meaningful of all is that it feels like we have been walking for so long, through all kinds of different terrain, and despite so many twists and turns and obstacles, we still manage to find a way to stay side by side.


14 Responses to “On foot”

  1. Suki on October 22nd, 2019 9:03 am

    As always, I am awestruck at your ability to capture life so beautifully. Just wow.

  2. akofaolain on October 22nd, 2019 10:15 am

    We got a dog this summer and our kids (11 and 14) almost never want to walk him with us. My husband and I walk him together every night, sometimes for an hour. It’s the first time in years that we have had so much time alone to talk and you have captured my feelings about that EXACTLY in this post. Beautiful writing, as always.

  3. Shawna on October 22nd, 2019 12:01 pm

    I agreed to get a dog partly because I anticipated my husband – who complains often that he’s getting a bit soft looking and has a very stressful job – would have to walk it every day once the kids’ promises to do so proved unreliable. I thought I’d join him often, but that he could use the stress relief of meditative strolls even without me if he had a chance to walk the dog before I got home.

    Little did I expect us to wind up with the only dog that hates walking! She hides when we bring out the leash and harness. She tries to sit down and refuse to leave the front yard on our way out, and tugs eagerly at the leash when we turn towards home. Not exactly incentive to walk often or for long distances!

  4. Cara on October 22nd, 2019 1:55 pm

    I envy you this. My husband and I both love to walk, but his preferred pace through our neighborhood is a literal jog for me. At home, my 9 year old is my walking companion or I use my walk as a time for quiet. But, this spring we traveled without kids, and we walked the city for three solid days. Soaking in the unfamiliar, stopping when something caught our interest, talking more than we have in years, but also walking along in silence, but holding hands. I loved it, and the chance to remember how much we enjoy each other.

  5. Kimberly on October 23rd, 2019 6:15 am

    So gorgeously written, Linda! So fabulous. I held my breath while reading it, it was just so perfectly put.

  6. Brooke on October 23rd, 2019 6:37 am

    This was just perfectly what I needed right now. Thank you.

  7. Angella Dykstra on October 23rd, 2019 9:54 am

    Beautiful, Linda.

    Matt and I like to hike and snow shoe together. Sometimes we chat, and sometimes we don’t. :)

  8. Nicole on October 23rd, 2019 10:39 am

    I love this.

    A friend recently shared her history with me. There was infidelity and after a lot of soul searching they decided to work on it. They take time to walk every weekend- no matter where or what tries to get in the way- they walk and share with each other. That’s true partnership.

    Rooting for you guys always.

  9. Shannon on October 23rd, 2019 3:11 pm

    This is so beautifully written!

  10. Carmen on October 24th, 2019 11:46 pm

    This is lovely. My husband and I used to go for walks in the early days of our relationship, but the demands of grad school eventually meant that ritual was dropped. I wish we’d kept it up.

  11. Lindsay on October 25th, 2019 4:01 pm

    It’s a walking meditation 💗

  12. Pat on October 28th, 2019 2:04 pm

    As always Linda – such a beautifully written post. I’m so happy that you do this together. My husband & I met as runners, so have logged many miles together as we’ve trained for & run several marathons. We’ve walked across both Spain (800 km) and Portugal (700 km) together. There was a lot of silence as no one can talk that much! As well we chatted about many things we may have never talked about in other situations. For us to experience these countries together like this was incredible. There were also many bitchy moments – because this is really really hard! Obviously we are kindred spirits as we are planning our third camino. Keep writing – I look forward to your posts!

  13. Jody on October 30th, 2019 10:48 pm

    I met you many years ago at John’s 10 year class reunion . He and I have been friends since 9th grade math class ! Anyways , I always hoped we all would reconnect somewhere , sometime …. just so I could tell you what an incredible woman you are ! Your writing is Pulitzer Prize worthy , your humor fantastic ,and your humility awe inspiring . I wanted you to know that the Sharps family is so incredibly lucky to have you in their tribe …. and of course John is the luckiest of them all ! Thank you for sharing your talent with the rest of us !
    Sincerely ,
    Jody Dalke.

  14. The Rachel Syn on December 12th, 2019 4:31 pm

    Oh, I loved this one. My husband and I are in the thick of both of us working full time with a 3 + 5 year old to care for, too. I long for the time when we can walk together regularly like you and John are doing. Thank you for sharing.

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