When I was about ten years old, my fifth grade class spent three days at this sort of outdoor science school up in the mountains, Camp Hi Hill. The curriculum was comprised of hiking to a natural spring, star gazing, and various other scientific stuff that I can barely even vaguely recall. I do have two lasting memories from this little excursion. The first is the "memory stick" each of us brought home with us, my first exposure to the sentimentality that would later blossom into the lost art of yearbook-signing. The second memory was in hindsight the most valuable aspect of the whole trip.
It was just around dusk as our cabin group was being led by our counselor to the top of the mesa from some unknown point to which we had hiked. Our counselor stopped us on the trail unexpectedly. We all sat down and he explained what was about to happen. We were about five minutes' walk from the top of the mesa, he said, where the rest of the campers would be waiting. He told us that each of us, one by one, would be walking the rest of the way up the trail on our own. It was to be our personal, solo walk. For someone who was already towing the line between bravery and fear just by being up there with all these strangers, away from family for the first time, this was no walk in the park. It was a mildly scary proposition. But there I went, out into the trees alone. I can't lie and say I remember it vividly. Honestly, I just remember walking, the myriad whistles, cranks, and hums of the wild forest around me, and the first twinkle of pride when I made it through to the other side unscathed.
Last night though, as I was trying to fall asleep, I was thinking about how nice it is sometimes to go for a walk alone. I hear more, I see more, I experience everything differently. The best part is the opportunity to be truly and completely alone with my own thoughts. Really, how often do we get that in our daily lives? I even recalled specific walks I had taken over the years that had each been very important to me in their own way. A walk by myself is a way to work things out. As I began thinking about this, it occurred to me that it very well may have started that night in the woods. I would think that had been the point, to plant a seed of independence or self-reliance. I don't know that it's as simple as saying "it worked." A big part of it, I'm sure, is simply growing up. But I will say, I really enjoy my alone time when I get it, be it a walk or the occasional Saturday night grill and football game at home.
That's all. Just saying.