Pollinating butterfly

This past weekend, J and I drove to Columbus, OH, where we visited (and J met) my family. Usually when I drive to Ohio, I take Reggie, who gives me a four-legged excuse to take lots of walks while I’m visiting. For this trip, we left Reggie in a kennel so it would be easier for us to spend time with my family without having a dog to tend to. Even without a dog, though, the walks J and I took while visiting were a highlight of the trip.

Garden path

My family can be loud and overwhelming: I often claim to be the quiet one in my family, and “quiet” isn’t usually a term people associate with me. I had no doubt my family would love J–everyone does–but I wondered how J would handle the sensory-overload that is a typical DiSabato family gathering, with everyone sitting around my parents’ kitchen table, eating and talking and laughing.

Going for a walk, it turns out, is a perfect pastime for the loud and potentially overwhelming. Whenever my family gathers around my parents’ kitchen table, there always seems to be three conversations going at once, with constant interruptions. When I was a child, one of my school teachers remarked that I was a good student, but I needed to try to stop interrupting other students because interrupting people is rude. Little did my teacher know that in my talkative family, interrupting is the only way you’ll ever get heard…at least for the few seconds until someone interrupts you.

Sunning bullfrog

A walk in the park is the physical equivalent of carrying on several conversations at once. When you walk with a handful of family members, each one of you can go at her or his own speed, and there’s freedom to wander and explore. If someone finds a cool butterfly, they can shout for everyone to come look at it; in the meantime, someone else can interrupt to point out a passing hawk or heron. When you’re taking a stroll to see whatever there is to see, conversational multitasking and frequent interruptions are a given. Nobody is hurt if several folks settle into their own conversation, and nobody is offended if three people simultaneously shout out cool things they’ve discovered in three separate directions.

Watermelon on the vine

On Friday, we went for a walk at Franklin Park, where we looked for butterflies in the pollinators’ garden, ripening vegetables in the community gardens, and frogs and waterlilies in the duck pond. On Saturday, we walked along Alum Creek, where we looked (unsuccessfully) for herons and settled for a silhouetted phoebe and ripening buckeyes instead. During both walks, J snapped hundreds of photos, his camera giving him a nonverbal way to stay engaged with my family, who quickly adapted to the persistent photographer in their midst. On a walk, there’s plenty of (literal) room for everyone to do their own thing, together. Talking a walk in the park, we decided, is the perfect antidote to the sensory overload of a boisterous family gathering, a chance to give one’s legs and attention span a healthy stretch.

Click here for more pictures from Friday afternoon’s walk at Franklin Park. Enjoy!

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