The other evening, I decided to take a walk to our local Spar to pick up a few things we needed around the house. It was also a thinking-out-the-box way to get my step-count up without feeling like I was formally exercising. The sun had not yet dipped over Lion’s Head and so it was light, but cool when I set off up the hill.
I am not sure what I was expecting from the walk, but I came back in love with my suburb. It was a hive of activity — in all spheres. Young, cool people having two- for-one cocktails at the local spot, moms and dads with prams and long leashes off to one of the three parks that dotted the way, people in a hurry to buy dinner at the shops and people at their leisure in restaurants.
I bumped into people I knew and I shared a joke with someone I didn’t. It was a wonderfully wholesome experience and one I would have missed entirely had I been in my car. My suburb has a wonderful air of being lived in, but well taken care of, like a much-loved vintage jacket.
On another similar evening recently, my eldest daughter and I decided to take a walk up into Deer Park forest for an evening stroll with our puppy. I walk a narrow path when it comes to that mountain. I love it like it is a part of me; looking at it means I am home, and living in its foothills has always been a non- negotiable for my domestic happiness but — even though I refuse to fear it — I know it’s not always safe to walk on.
So we hung out nonchalantly at the bottom of the trail until a lovely group appeared; three dogs, three adults and four kids. We hooked onto the back of their group and made friends as we bounced up the mountain, children and dogs running ahead, gently working out where we all fitted into our community.
Our day-to-day lives are as insulated or as open as we choose them to be. I live, work and school my kids in a triangle with sides of about two kilometres in each direction. I can get in my car, drop at school, go to work, fetch from school and go home and have spoken to only a handful of people (and have driven about 6 kilometres).
We pride ourselves on our independence, on our ability to solve our own problems and not depend on each other. But, as many psychologists (including Maslow — who has a triangle of his own) have repeatedly stressed, the truth of the matter is that a sense of social connection is one of our fundamental human needs. I feel so lucky not only to have close friends to rely on, but to be able to make these kinds of friendly, non- demanding connections. They make you feel like you are a part of something bigger but without needing to actively participate too much. They keep you up to date and informed about your community without having to take notes and remember birthdays.
The sense of grounding and connectedness I feel when I step out that bubble is wonderfully uplifting. With society moving at a faster and more detached pace due to technology, busy schedules and the frequency at which we change jobs, homes and locations, it makes it harder and harder to feel any sense of community.The sense of grounding and connectedness I feel when I step out that bubble is wonderfully uplifting. With society moving at a faster and more detached pace due to technology, busy schedules and the frequency at which we change jobs, homes and locations, it makes it harder and harder to feel any sense of community.
Sometimes what we really need is to get out the box and around the block.