We haven’t been able to take exciting holidays this year, but if we engage our senses, we can rediscover our own neighborhoods. What do you spy on your walk?

Let’s take a walk, shall we? 

I’ve just leashed up my best dog Ollie, and I’ve donned my mask and coat, this being December in New England. 

Grab your phone, so you have a camera (have a “real” camera? Even better!). Leave the headphones.

We’re off in search of wonder.

If we can’t travel, let’s find wonder in our own backyards

We live in an amazing wide world, full of feasts for the senses, and these feasts are often found far from home. New places shock us, making us alive to everything around us. Other languages, fascinating smells, and the sights. And the food! My first day in a new place has me staring at everything. Even fire hydrants captivate me!

Seriously, isn't this an interesting fire hydrant? Lisbon, Portugal

Alas, it’s going to be a bit before we see strange new fire hydrants, so we’re going to look at the ones in our own backyard anew.


A fire hydrant hiding in the flora. Somerville, Massachusetts, USA

Which way to go?

Which way do you want to go? While Ollie and I have wandered all around my Camberville neighborhood (the cities of Cambridge and Somerville, Massachusetts, US, weave together at their boundaries like a drunken sailor drew the map, so we refer to this blended area as Camberville), I try to mix it up. Some set paths, sure, but I try to keep things interesting by varying the side streets. Sometimes I let Ollie pick our direction, though he’s usually in search of snacks and not always the most reliable guide.

Image of a dog
Ollie may not be a reliable guide, but he is super cute. Grounds of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.

What do you see?

Anyhow, the point is to try and get ourselves out of the same old same old. What do you see? I see ivy growing on a foundation. Faded hydrangeas. The light on an old house. Snap a photo or two, trying to capture what about your subject grabbed your attention. Look for another second or so, enjoy your sight, before moving on.  It’s OK to look at the same thing the next time you walk by. Noticing changes around us satisfies and provokes.

What do you hear?

What do you hear? I was serious about leaving the headphones at home. This walk is about being alive in the moment, and listening to a podcast focuses your attention elsewhere. 

Are there people around? Maybe listen for snippets of random conversation (a personal favorite, from circa 2013: “I’m telling you, they were out of the gourmet worms!”). Of course, these days we need to keep our distance, but sometimes I still hear the good bits.

What about wildlife? I don’t know where you’re walking, so maybe there are some cool birds.

Maybe there’s a river. Early on in the Covid times, I stayed at my parents’ house in New Hampshire’s Lakes Region for a couple of months.  I spent a lot of time walking along the lakes and rivers of my childhood. One time I just listened to the ice on Lake Winnisquam breaking up (please forgive the crooked video; Ollie was getting a bit chilly).

Maybe where you are, you hear traffic sounds. Horns. Construction.

Or, perhaps it is simply quiet, except for the sounds of your feet, crunching through leaves.

What do you smell, taste?

How does it smell where you are? Taste? For me, the air has turned colder, invigorating on my face (I don’t care for winter that much, though I’m trying especially hard this year to be OK with it). Crisp air, however, makes me happy. We got our first snow early this year, in October, but our regularly scheduled weather returned. If no one’s around, I’ll slip my mask down for a second and take a deep breath, surprised by the smell of leaves and the taste of fresh air.

I’m still snapping photos of random points of interest, like the path that winds to an urban secret garden, and I hope you are, too. 


A secret garden, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA

How do you feel?

How do you feel? After walking for forty-five minutes or so, my legs feel stretched, and my lungs good.

Sometimes I head out for a walk stressed out or distracted, lost in my own world, only going because Ollie required a potty break. Something about walking about shakes me out of my stupor, though, and I start paying attention. It helps me to stay in the now, to find little wonder in my everyday.

This year, I have become much more aware about the privilege involved in being able to walk freely, even snapping photos of my neighbors’ properties. I’m a forty-something white woman with a cute little rescue dog, living among university professors and students. My experience is a privileged one. As grateful as I am to have had walks as an outlet, I have work to do to make this outlet safe for everyone.

Ollie and I have turned the corner and are heading up our street, toward our building. Sometimes I notice the way that the sun hits the brick, or spy my neighbor doing dishes. We’re friendly, so we wave hello.

It’s time to head up the stairs, wash my hands, and give my pupper a treat. A bit later, I’m going to check out what wonders I  captured on my wander. I’ll show them to my friends, including you.

Wonder & Sundry will feature regular posts on finds from my walks with Ollie. You can also follow me on Instagram at wonderandsundry.

I’d love to hear about your walk in the comments!