For your mind

This was the first sight that greeted me when I drove into town.
How could I not stay? May, 2019

“Sometimes the best thing you can do for your mind is take it for a walk.”
—  Ashleigh Brilliant

Ashleigh can speak with authority on this topic. He’s lived over eight decades without using a car very much.* In fact, I don’t know whether he even owns one. I’ve only ever seen his bicycles, parked on his front porch, and I know that he walks (or bikes) almost everywhere he goes. Of course, that’s easy for someone who lives in the heart of a lovely place called Santa Barbara. But the rest of us are without excuse, no matter where we live.

Everywhere I’ve ever been, there are nearby charming little towns (or charming areas within not-so-charming towns) or at least very interesting places, to explore on foot. And I totally agree that often, the thing my mind needs most of all is to go for a walk.

After a few of you exhorting me (via the comments section) to get back to my long-neglected habit of walking at least 2 miles a day, I walked that distance three different days in my neighborhood this past week. But on Friday, I was returning from a yearly planning meeting with Matt and the various agencies involved in his life. The weather was gorgeous– not too hot, sunny, and just a faint breeze. So I decided to do something I’ve intended to do for nearly ten years now: spend some time exploring the nearby little town of Occoquan. This marker gives a bit of its history. By the way, it’s pronounced “Ah’ ko-kwan” (I think).

I’ve been there for errands and appointments just outside the historic district, so I knew it is a picturesque waterside village that would be perfect for a walk. I only had a couple of hours to spare, but I decided that would be better than nothing. And it was a great way to spend that two hours, better than any therapeutic intervention I could have asked my insurance company to provide. I decided to invite you to go along with me, virtually, and see if you agree.

I wasn’t the only one who thought it was a great day for a stroll.

One of my favorite shops was formerly a stately home, now filled with delightful furnishings and accessories. I could easily have spent my entire time in this one shop alone, but I had to tell myself I’d save it for another time.

I was happy this was no longer a private residence so I could go in; it looked so inviting!

Along with the charming shops, tea rooms and restaurants typical of such places, there’s a unique new town house development called Gaslight Landing. Need a place to dock your boat, or wishing for your own elevator inside your home? Those things and more can be yours for “only” $899,900 or so. But enjoying the sight of them as you stroll through town is free, and much easier than owning and maintaining one.

It felt almost like being in San Francisco again.

I guess the residents are accustomed to having people park in front of their homes.
(They have private parking behind the homes, in case you’re thinking of living there.)

One of the things I enjoy most about wandering through these little towns is that I always see things here and there that remind me of some of my favorite people. Whenever I see red, white and blue (and there is plenty of it on display the week before Memorial Day) I think of my patriotic friend Mary Ann. When I see anything with a seashore motif I think of Sheila and her lovely oceanfront home. And when I saw one particular shop, it may as well have had a sign outside saying “bring Alys here next time she comes.”

First of all, there was a Little Free Library outside. Many of you know Alys or someone else who has generously provided such a “book stop” for the community. Each Little Free Library is unique, which makes them special, but all share the wealth of reading and encourage others to do the same. As if that wasn’t enough, this particular Little Free Library also offered seed packets for flowers that benefit local wildlife while beautifying the landscape. Of course I picked up a packet, snapping a photo to show Alys, whose blog is rightly named “Gardening Nirvana.”

Look closely and you’ll see the seed packets at the bottom of the photo.

When I tore myself away from the Little Free Library and actually entered the shop, I noticed another reminder of Alys. As a professional organizer, she introduced me to Marie Kondo’s books and their wonderful advice to “Spark joy.” How could I not take this photo to share with her, and with you?

Anyplace that sparks joy is my kind of place.

Even the little “nooks and crannies” had colorful photo-worthy sights. I snapped this little alley just as my time was running out and I had to leave.

Too bad I didn’t have time to sit down. What color chair would you choose?

So this is the closest I could come to having you with me that day. But I’m pretty sure that you have lots of fun, cute or interesting places near wherever you are, that you can enjoy exploring. It’s good exercise, for body, mind and spirit. Next time you feel a little bit crazy, remember Ashleigh’s advice, and take your mind out for a walk!


*despite– or maybe because of– his PhD dissertation at Berkeley being about the effects of the automobile industry on Southern California in the 1920’s.


  1. I love meandering streets, shops and free libraries with you. The weather was perfect for a walk. We may live on opposite side of the world, but we are on the same pathway. And that give great comfort.

    • Yes, it’s wonderful to have traveling companions, especially when we connect over such a distance!

  2. Harry Sims

    Thanks for taking me along.


    • You’re welcome, Harry, glad you could join us!

  3. MaryAnn Clontz

    WOW! Magnificent use of your 2 hours! I perused the photos first, then discovered a huge blessing, naming me as your “R, W, B” friend. Matt & I have that in common! Quaint Occoquan is someplace I want to visit! I love your virtual tour guide duties, made me feel like I was strolling beside you (as I am in spirit)! The San Francisco feel makes me miss our Victorian-era Queen Anne home.
    I love you & long to WALK with you! So glad you are out there, again, to inspire us on the physical as well as spiritual & moral aspects of life!

    • Mary Ann, when I saw those town homes I did think of your lovely Victorian home, one of the first places we ever spent time with you. It too was a waterside location, but it was even better: a single family house, not a town home. What fun all the church kids used to have there, and what a cool place to be able to make ourselves at home. That place will always be one of my favorite California memories. I hope we do get to go to Occoquan together. Since it’s so near Matt’s day program, maybe we can drop by to see him and he will be thrilled to introduce you to his friends there. Of course, there are many other sights to see, so we’ll have to plan it all out. Did you get the link to the tour schedule I sent? If all goes well, we will get lots of walking done. Makes me smile just thinking about it! ❤

  4. Good morning, Julia!
    I would take a blue chair.
    1. It’s a lovely shade of blue
    2. If someone else wanted a blue chair, there would still be one for them 😊

    • Great choice, and even better logic! Mr. Spock would approve of reason 2.

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