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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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The Full Suburban: Sanity walks, aka as trash walks, aren’t so baaad

This sign is part of Julia Ditto’s “sanity walk” in Spokane Valley. (Julia Ditto / For The Spokesman-Review)
This sign is part of Julia Ditto’s “sanity walk” in Spokane Valley. (Julia Ditto / For The Spokesman-Review)
By Julia Ditto For The Spokesman-Review

Since the stay-home order was issued in March, I have taken what I like to call a “sanity walk” almost every day. This walk is not so much about exercising as it is about getting out of the house, breathing fresh air, enjoying a change of scenery and experiencing the luxury of being by myself for 30 minutes.

And I don’t want to brag, but I am a bit of a legend around these parts for being a very fast, very awkward walker. My neighbor, my kids and my husband all do a pretty spot-on impression of my speedwalking style; if you’ve ever watched an Olympic race walker hip-sway her way to a gold medal, you’ll know what I’m referencing.

Sometimes I take my walks in the morning while the kids are all sitting around the kitchen table watching their online homeschool lessons glitch in and out. Sometimes I’ll wait until after lunch when our schedule for the day has officially ground to a halt, and I need something to break up the remaining seven hours until bedtime.

But no matter when I go, it’s a time I look forward to for me. I’ll lace up my shoes, put in my headphones and cue up a podcast episode I haven’t listened to yet. And then I’ll head down our driveway and onto the long country road that stretches out from east to west in front of our house.

As I’ve been out on these walks, I have noticed that some people seem to think our country road is a recycling dropoff center where they should feel free to dump all sorts of things. They’re pretty consistent with what they toss out their car windows – mostly beer cans and plastic bags, with an occasional McDonald’s beverage cup mixed in just to class it up. Why beer and bags are the litter of choice, I have no idea.

Have people nothing more useful in their cars to share with the world – perhaps a half-completed dissertation on the duality of man or an unused gift card to Dairy Queen, for example? Sometimes I’ll take my kids out with me on a “trash walk,” and we’ll put on plastic gloves and fill trash bags with whatever garbage we find on the side of the road. So far, the most interesting find is a metal piece that looks like it fell off a tractor in 1956.

In spite of the litter, there are many beautiful and amusing things I see on my walks. One of my favorite destinations is an old farmhouse that was the former home of some of the earliest pioneers in the Saltese Flats. I look at that house and imagine what life must have been like for those settlers in the late 1800s when there was nothing for miles but fields and maybe another house or two.

The old farmhouse is nestled up against a hillside, and when we first moved out here, I couldn’t understand why they would pick such a hemmed-in spot for their house when they could have chosen any hilltop in the area with beautiful vistas to look at each day. I figured it out our first winter here when the wind was howling around our hilltop home in a purely apocalyptic manner, and the snowdrifts were piling up in our open, unprotected field.

A house snugged up to a hill sounded pretty good right about then, and I realized that those early settlers maybe knew what they were doing.  The current owners of the farmhouse have several sheep that roam in a fenced field near the road. There is a sign at the end of their driveway advertising that for $2 (paid on the honor system, of course), passersby can head down to the pasture, pop open a garbage can filled with grains and other tasty treats and feed the animals.

“Baaa loudly, and they will come!” the sign reads. I smile every time I walk by. The charm of living in the country is not lost on me. And, right now at least, this country life is one of the only things keeping me sane.

Julia Ditto shares her life with her husband, six children and a random menagerie of farm animals in Spokane Valley. She can be reached at

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