“Take some time to stop and smell the roses.” We’re all familiar with this saying, telling us we should take time out from our busy lives to notice and enjoy the good things that are all around us. I’m sure most of us would acknowledge the wisdom of the advice, although few of us probably follow it on a regular basis.

I thought about this recently after hearing a friend talk about how much she enjoyed taking walks with her daughter. They would walk along for a while at a pretty good pace, and then her daughter would stop and point out something my friend hadn’t even noticed. They’d stop and study it for a while, admiring whatever it was that had captured the daughter’s attention. Then they’d continue on until something else caught her eye.

I pointed out to my friend that this was actually a healthy habit, not just for the “stop and smell the roses” effect, but because it mimicked the principles of interval training, which intersperses intense bursts of activity with recovery periods at a slower pace.

My friend wasn’t really concerned with exercise during their walks, but she did appreciate the added joy of stopping for her daughter’s observations and insights.

“A wealth of teachable moments” is how she described it, and I suspect she meant they were teachable moments for her more so than for her daughter.

Not only do walks such as this offer a wealth of teachable moments, they offer a wealth of discovery as well. I remember walks around the neighborhood when my kids were first born. At the time, my husband and I were living in a suburb of Chicago, and both of us were working downtown. When we were ready to buy a house, our main requirement was “walking distance to train.”

The house we bought was in an older neighborhood, with a five-block walk to the train station. It was about three years before our first child was born, and I spent that time walking back and forth, past the same houses, on my way to and from the train station. But everything seemed brand new later on, when I traveled the same route while pushing a stroller with a baby on board. I found myself wondering, “Hmmm, when did they put THAT house there?” about a sixty-year-old home just three or four houses down from ours. It was as if I’d never seen it before. That’s what happens when you’re traveling at a much slower pace than you’re used to.

Then, when the kids didn’t need strollers anymore, our walks got even slower. Not because they couldn’t walk as fast as I did, but because we’d stop to study bugs and anthills, and anything else that caught their attention.

The kids are grown and gone now, but I should take it upon myself to start taking walks again, not just for the fresh air or aerobic benefit, but to see what treasures I can discover in my own neighborhood. To spend time gazing intently and at length at clouds and rainbows. And, whenever possible, to stop and smell the roses.

The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on June 16, 2016.
©Betty Liedtke, 2016

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