Here’s a riddle posed to me by a five year old a long time ago. Somehow, it’s always stuck with me. What did the snail say when he took a ride on the turtles’ back? “Wheeeeee!”
It came to mind again recently during one of those wonderful and fleeting moments that ambush you and leave a smile on your face. I was about to walk into the gym, when the door opened, and out rushed a young boy followed quickly by his mother. “STOP!” she called, quickly catching up with him and taking his hand. “Stop and smell! This is what the earth smells like after it rains.”
I watched them both take a deep breath. I took one of my own, and said a little silent prayer of gratitude for this mom as they disappeared into the parking lot. Gratitude for a parent who slowed down, took the time, and knew the value of connecting her child to a small wonder.
I remembered the ritual of the earth that I shared with my father every time we took a walk in the woods. He would stoop, scoop up a handful of soil, hold it up to his nose, take a deep draught of the rich, winey aroma. Then he would extend his hand and bid me to do the same.
I keep that tradition. One year I brought my granddaughter, to the “headwaters of the Minesceongo” the small tributary of my Hudson River Valley childhood rambles, scooped up some soil, and reenacted the ritual. A few years after that, I happened to ask my granddaughter what her favorite smell in the whole world was. She narrowed it down to two. The smell of fresh ground coffee beans and the soil in New York. Wheeeee! A girl after my own heart!
Now back to that snail and turtle. The reason that this silly little riddle resonates with me is that I am a slowwwwww walker, a saunterer and ambler. Don’t ask me to hike with you if you’re hell bent on racking up the miles and making the summit as quickly as possible. You’ll leave me far behind. Double back and you’ll likely find me on my hands and knees with a magnifying glass in my hands examining the bark of a rotting log, or with my nose stuck in a newly discovered wildflower.
This pace is generally understood as possibly frustrating but still appropriate for bird watching, leaf peeping, and other REI themed excursions. But occasionally I run into a problem when I am taking a neighborhood walk. It happened recently, right here on my own street.
About a half a mile into my excursion, a Neighborhood Watch sign I hadn’t noticed before caught my attention. You’ve seen them. “WARNING.” Encircled with a line through it peers an icon of a man in a black coat and hat. “WE IMMEDIATELY REPORT ALL SUSPICIOUS ACTIVITIES.” It turns out that walking slowly with a magnifying glass and a notebook, may appear to my neighbors as a suspicious activity. The very next day, as I was stopped by the side of the road, recording a passing thought when I vaguely sensed a car slowing down as it approached. The driver stopped and stared for several uncomfortable seconds.. I could sense that he was eyeing me with some suspicion. Sure enough, he asked what me what I was doing?
“ Just moseying and doing some writing in my journal,” was my reply. “I live a few houses up the street,” I volunteered, quietly annoyed that I needed to explain myself for doing something as exemplary as taking the time to walk slowly, reflecting on the beauty and vagaries of the universe. I even offered a cheery nod.”Thanks for watching out for the neighborhood.”
But what I really wanted to say, was, “Hey neighbor. I have a license to mosey. If you want one, I can issue you one too.” Of course, that might have seemed truly suspicious. Then I’d have to explain, that I was a storyteller and authorized as Secretary of State and Ambassador for the Realm of the Possibilities to issue such a document.
What do I imagine? More moms and dad’s holding hands with their kids and stopping to smell the earth after the rain. A magnifying glass in every book bag and briefcase. Slow walks in the neighborhood and time to shoot the breeze and hear each other’s stories. Moseying as popular as Hot Yoga and 30 Minute High intensity Spinning classes. I went home and created an official License to Mosey.
You can have one too. Just contact me through my web-site and I’ll send you one. You can address your inquiries to The Mosey Man.
(published simultaneously at( goodmenproject.com)