Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Tuesday's Reflection: Walking, Part II

"What will I see today," I wondered as I set out on a midday walk.  I thought about poet Mary Oliver's words:
                     Pay attention.
                     Be astonished.
                     Tell about it.
Good words for a walker who happens to write a blog and a blogger who loves to walk, but good advice for all of us. 

I have noticed that people walk in our neighborhood. In our previous neighborhood, where there were sidewalks making walking safe and convenient, as in this urban neighborhood, the only people who walked were people walking their dogs. Certainly, there are dog walkers here, and having a dog is an excellent excuse for taking a walk, but I see people here just walking. Walking alone or with a partner. Young walkers and old, older, oldest walkers. Walkers pushing babes in strollers. How charming is it to see those pudgy legs bouncing to the rhythm of the uneven sidewalk. 

Many are walking as part of an exercise routine, I am sure, but I suspect many are walking to go some place, such as the school playground or community center or the local burger and ice cream shop or perhaps the large Catholic church up the block. The other morning I saw a neighbor walking home with her Bible in hand, perhaps, after attending a Bible study. I liked thinking about a group of neighbors gathering to reflect on the works and wonders of God. 

I imagine many walk just for the pure pleasure of it. 

One of my favorite children's books is Eric Carle's Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? Here's what I saw today. I saw two teenage girls carrying bags from a fun gift shop not far away, and I wondered what treats they had purchased. For themselves or a present for a friend? 

I peeked in at one of the little free library boxes perched like a birdhouse for readers. It was jammed full, and I hoped someone would stroll by soon and find exactly what they want to read and go home on this warm day for an afternoon of lazy reading on the porch. 

I heard the slap-slapping of someone in flip flops running down the sidewalk. She rang a doorbell and asked if Mary could come out and play. The mom said she was walking the dog, but would be home soon and would be so happy to know her friend was home. I heard construction workers laughing as they took a coffee break. I saw a little girl in princess regalia--tiara, wand, pink cape. She was ready to rule her subjects, but no one was there. 

I wondered about the number of Spanish style homes in this very midwest neighborhood of homes built in the 20's, 30's and 40's. Much to my surprise, they appeal to me, and I wonder what they are like inside. I admired the second floor terrace at a corner home and hoped the owners sat there often. I'll be checking on them! 

As always, I enjoyed seeing the wide variety of ways people have landscaped and gardened their front yards. I envied the large stand of birch trees in one yard and also the way others have used every inch for plants and foliage, eliminating all need for mowing. Last week I spotted a house with a patio on the side of their house and thought how we could do that, giving us both privacy and yet allow us to enjoy the neighborhood comings and goings. Bruce likes the idea--stay tuned to ongoing developments. 

I enjoy making up stories about the people I see, based on a brief glimpse into a fraction of their lives. Yesterday I saw two women, obviously sisters, emerge from a front door and walk to a car that had just parked. "Hi, Mom. How are you?" An elderly woman opened the door on the passenger side of the car and in a bird-like voice, responded, "This is a good day." Of course, I would love to know more of her story, but I can create my own plot, my own characterizations as I continue my walk. With people in my life I try hard not to fill in the blanks and guess or suppose what I am not privileged to know, at least not yet. I try to receive what is offered and to wait until a time when more may be shared. I can support without needing to know everything, but on my walks I let my imagination soar. I submerge myself in fiction and fantasy and enjoy the unknown. 

Currently, I am reading a book called On Looking, Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes by Alexandra Horowitz, and I like what she says about walking mindfully, "aiming to bring active attention to our daily lives by noticing new things." She says, "We miss the possibility of being surprised by what is hidden in plain sight right in front of us," and "We all have the capacity to really see what is in front of us…we just forget how to turn it on."

Walking the neighborhood challenges me to "turn it on."

An Invitation
What do you see when you go for a walk? How attentive are you when you walk? Challenge yourself to go on the same walk five days in a row and to see something new each time. I would love to know what you discover. 

                        Pay attention.
                        Be amazed.
                        Tell about it.
                               Mary Oliver

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