Crinkle Crankle Walls

Last week, I began thinking it would be quite nice to have a stepping-stone path built in our backyard so the girls could walk to their swing set without having to make the painful trek across gravel (sometimes you can’t be bothered to put on shoes when you want to run and swing as an escape from distance learning!).

A few days later, I was talking with a landscape designer in our backyard about the plan. I stuck my arm out to show him my idea for the path’s location – a straight line from the patio to the swing set. He nodded. “We can definitely do that,” he said, “but you may want to consider a path with more curves. Winding paths are more beautiful.”

Since then, I have been thinking a lot about winding paths. When I went to London for a semester in college, there was a wavy brick garden wall in a community park nearby. I liked walking by the wall and matching my footsteps to its shape, finding it much more interesting than walking next to a straight wall. A Londoner told me the wall had a special name – a crinkle crankle wall (the Old English of “zig zag”). I learned that the wall was designed for function. The curves added strength and actually reduced the number of bricks needed because the wavy structure allowed the wall to be only a single brick thick rather than the two-brick thickness needed for sturdy construction of a straight wall. 

Winding paths in nature are beautiful and useful, it seems. They create a sense of mystery and novelty, and each step along a winding stepping-stone path invites a next step – way leads on to way.

As I thought about it more, I realized that most paths we take in our lives are winding. Most of the time, we don’t get where we are going in a straight, efficient line. Rather, we encounter slowdowns and delays and twists and turns. And yet, most of the time, we find ourselves stronger because of the ability to develop some flexibility and embrace the unknown.

…and you know what? The landscape designer was right. It usually is a more beautiful journey that way.

Author: Alyssa Forcehimes, PhD

An expert in behavior change, substance use disorders and empathic communication, Dr. Alyssa Forcehimes serves as President of The Change Companies® and Train for Change Inc.® She lives in Arizona with her husband and two daughters.