Walk About

Posted: November 6, 2013 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , ,

By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty.

Among the many wonderful things that occurred at the wedding this past weekend (wedding post forthcoming) was the opportunity to talk to countless new people. One endearing woman kept pressing me for details about life in Chicago, particularly related to walking in Chicago. Did I really walk everywhere? Yes. So far? Yes, the bride and groom’s home (lovingly nicknamed McTedros Manor) is one mile from my apartment (Tricia’s Treehouse), and yes, I walk there often, and yes, I tend to walk or bike many miles every day. Her questions were amusing because her responses tended toward incredulity. She simply could not imagine a life filled with so much walking, while I feel exactly the opposite.

In addition to the loveliness associated with any walk through my neighborhood, there is always the potential of encountering a friend Imageon the street. I regularly see Bryce out playing with his grey speckled dog, Trapper. I stop to chat with Gregg & Maddie while they are walking to the diner. I meet members of the Urban Family walking to and from the train, and we walk each other home, just because we can.

One of the most enjoyable ways to walk through my neighborhood is with my friend, Maria. She owns “the bar,” The Whirlaway Lounge (I may have mentioned it before), the one most beloved in the neighborhood. She is lovingly referred to as, “The sweetest woman on the planet,” which is a damn-near perfect portrayal. Walking the neighborhood with her is especially delightful, because we can’t get two blocks before someone stops her to say “Hello.” The sense of community experienced while walking in my Chicago neighborhood is unrivaled.

When I was speaking to my friend Clark recently, he said, “So, tell me about your new apartment.”

I thought for a moment and said, “I really love my new walk to the train.”

“How will you like it in the winter?“ He asked.

I replied, “Oh, I don’t mind. I like how quiet it is in the city on a snowy morning.”

I’m certain that I read an article about the benefits of a pedestrian lifestyle, but I can’t find it. The best I can find is an article that warns against the decline in walking (particularly in The United States), called “The Crisis of Pedestrianism” from Slate.

Additionally, Ray Bradbury’s 1951 short story “The Pedestrian” shows the clairvoyance of the best writers. Here is an animated video inspired by the tale.

Like Bradbury’s character, I walk “to see.” I think of all the wonderful things I’ve seen on walks throughout North America; the leafy Imageboulevards of Toronto, the red brick lanes in Boston, the elegant monuments in Washington DC, the bands playing on cobblestone streets in New Orleans, the relentless hills of San Francisco, the stucco enclaves in Old San Juan, and the shady cafes in Puerto Vallarta all hold special memories. I think of the immeasurable stretches of gorgeous beaches I’ve strolled down, and the thought them makes my sigh.

In Europe, I crossed breathtaking bridges. On my first solo trip, I walked The Millennium Bridge in London from The Tate Modern to St. ImagePaul’s Cathedral. I’ve also traversed bridges that have stood for thousands of years: The Charles Bridge in Prague is a sentimental favorite, but the small stonework bridges in rural Ireland are endlessly appealing, especially when they span waterways as impossibly Seussian as the River Sneed.

Walking makes daily life seem more like traveling in my own town. If I pass a building or shop or café that seems interesting, I act like I would on vacation, and go inside. It was in this way that my friends (and newly married couple) Hanna and Ryan discovered an inviting new coffee shop just north on Milwaukee Avenue, eminently comfortable, and far less crowded than the ones just a mile south.

I derive inestimable pleasure from starting and ending my day with a fine walk. This morning I passed at least ten stunning crimson and auburn and gold trees, and I stopped to admire them, the individual trees. Walking affords me the time to look at individual trees. I bear witness to the slow progression of time; feel the seasons move themselves along at a walking pace. The seasons don’t rush to meet each other; they go slow.

Walking enlivens my body and mind. The first Flaneurs were great walkers, so it is only fitting that I am one, too.

 

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