Volume 34, No. 9
Alley Hiking, Kicking Rocks, and Feeding Ducks
What activities have you been doing during this time of sheltering in place and being at home? Have you been walking more, eating more, or reading more? Have you found the time to tackle those home projects? Have you used your time to reach out to the community and help those in need? Maybe you have simply tried to survive this frustrating pandemic and look forward to the day when you can be with family and friends. I know for those of us with kids, our responsibilities have grown as we teach them, take care of them, and keep them entertained every moment of the day.
My daughters have been spending a lot of time outside. One of the things we do together is go alley hiking. What is alley hiking you ask? Well, for the first time in my kids’ lives they live in a city with alleys. And since we can’t really get out to the trails to hike because of social distancing, we put on our tennis shoes and walk for miles along the alleys of our neighborhood.
And in the alleys around our house are a lot of stones and rocks. On a recent alley hike, Annaleigh and I spent almost an hour kicking a round rock up and down each and every alley we traversed. That round stone was fun and gave us something to do as we walked, talked, and invested in each other. Beatrice doesn’t want to kick the rocks as much as pick them up and take them home. Bea thinks rocks are beautiful: all rocks, every rock has character. Every rock has a story. Sometimes every pocket of hers is filled with stones from our hikes. Once she gets the rocks home, she empties her pockets outside and she and Annaleigh use the rocks and sticks to build intricate homes for fairies and bugs. They’ve recently added both a playground and hospital to their city as they process their longing for regular life and their mama.
While alley hiking during the pandemic we have begun to name the alleys like J.K. Rowling does in the Harry Potter books. There is Bear Alley, with the dog that looks like a bear; Cow Pasture Alley for the alley that is grassy and smells like fertilizer; and Duck Alley where, believe it or not, there are ducks residing near our house. There is a creek at the far end of our neighborhood where five or six ducks and ducklings take up residence during the spring and summer. While hiking Duck Alley, the girls and I came upon a Mallard family with a hen and two ducklings. Annaleigh and Bea named them Big Mama, Duckle, and Bongo. We also saw a Drake and Hen whom we named Dean and Beauty. This kind of wildlife up close was so spectacular and out of the ordinary in the city that my daughters sat for hours, watching them swim, sleep, and clean their feathers.
We all have huge events going on in our lives as we learn to live amid crisis. We have family members dying, our personal finances might be depleting, the stress of work and home or maybe of not having a job or a home is causing unbelievable hardships. Yet, with these moments of crisis, we are called by God to notice the moments of joy and hope. Those moments might be out of sight, down some obscure alley, but they are present. It might mean letting the crisis be what it is and knowing that God is calling us into alleys to feed the ducks or to kick rocks. Whatever moment God has you in, I continue to pray you find places of wonder, laughter, and hope. Maybe I’ll see you from a distance on our next alley hike.