Walking is elemental. It’s such a monument that our first step is celebrated. Also marked, is the day we can no longer do it. We take it for granted until the day we’re not able. And, depending upon our choice of home, we do less and less of it the more sophisticated we get as a society. That’s why we get heavier and why our legs get weaker and why we tend toward disconnection from our city. At the edges of the continent, we walk. Big cities like Manhattan or Seattle or Boston or San Diego are full of bi-peds. The beaches that bookend us make perfect places to stroll. The really small towns of mid-America, where everything is close by and the traffic’s not too bad, also make for good foot-time. It’s the great, sprawling swath of everything else that keeps us tied to our commute and our garage and our air conditioning.
Now, I’ve given that up. I’ve moved to a place where I can give up the motor and go back to locomotion. And make a dent in my carbon footprint, with footprints. I’ve found a home, in a perfect spot, a block from work, a block from the grocery store, a bus stop out front, a local pub a few doors down, a coffee shop kitty-corner, a wine shop next to that, with a dance studio above and an authentic NY pizzeria next door. Everything I need is within a block. And it’s all locally owned and locally supported. There’s even a little theatre with local talent and a tiny gallery.
When you walk a city, you learn it in a different way, a more intimate and tangible way. Sometimes, depending on the season, it’s not the easy way. But it’s good to be reminded that Mother Nature does actually rule us. When you walk, you learn to dress one layer up from what you think you need. It may be bright sun, but you take a rain jacket and umbrella anyway. It may be a crisp fall day, but you bring a hat and gloves fit for snow.
When you walk a city, you feel. You feel time. You feel it in the way you can solve a problem you’ve been mulling while you walk to get eggs. You feel it in the temperature difference a little sunlight makes when the clouds part. You feel it in the lower humidity of spring and fall than that of summer. You feel it in the way stone wears down while grass grows up under your feet. You feel it in the conversations you have on the bus with people who smell differently than you and think differently than you. You feel it in the weight of the groceries you’re carrying and you remember that, next time, you shouldn’t buy so much. You feel it in the trunks of trees, so wide and so old that you know they’ve seen more than you. And you feel good about feeling human, in the unmechanized way we’ve always been.
Robin Behl, La Cuentista