In these midlife years, I walk, but principally for pleasure and exercise. Everything in suburbia is geared toward the car, so I have to make a special point to walk, sometimes in nature, but sometimes just around the block with my earphones on. When we first moved here from a more urban area, it was awkward to take evening walks, in darkness, as I was used to. Prowling a suburban neighborhood at night may be considered cause for alarm, or dog chases. So, reluctantly I gave up my evening “constitutional” – which is so much a way of life in Italy, and other parts of the world, in places big and small. So, now I walk only in daytime, often at noon, when I won’t be the only one on quiet stretches of trails through the woods or the meadows, rambling along with my phone, keys and a whistle.
I have my favorite walks, i.e., the Great Meadows, the Minuteman Bike Trail or Shawsheen cemetery around here, and along the harbor and Falmouth Heights beach at the Cape, but my enthusiasm is not shared much by my own family members. In a word, speed. My guys all like to skate – ice or roller – but walking seems boring to them, and pointless. Once in a while, they will volunteer to accompany me, as a favor, but never on their own. As for exercise, walking doesn’t have much appeal for them, compared to hockey or working out at the gym. My husband grew up peddling around town on his bike, which he enjoyed, until he got hit by a car while on his bike, breaking a leg. The biking revival has not reached him, and he’s not one for spandex.
For a time, I was pretty much a solitary walker, but increasingly, I see other walkers in the area, many of them with dogs or kids or strollers – as it should be. There is a lot more foot traffic in town, along the main roads, where before I don’t recall any. Kids out on their half-days with a few dollars in their pockets and lots of places for a quick bite. The older Chinese couples, and some Indian, out to do errands. I see some of the half-way house crowd walking along, fast or slow, their destinations unknown. We have now a population of homeless families residing at a local hotel, and more and more I see the young moms with strollers, or a dad holding a kid’s hand, walking to the grocery store.
I can’t say that my fellow walkers are necessarily out for the pleasure of the outdoors – more like necessity. There was a time where it seemed most people out walking in town were people of color, with some of the socio-economic background that implied – who had no other means of transportation. We have more bus-riders now, I’ve noticed, and all kinds of commuters, white and blue collar, that walk to and from their bus stops. Sometimes a drag, I know. But that doesn’t mean they won’t discover some of the benefits of walking. Maybe a slightly slower pace of life, and maybe a better pace of heartbeat. Maybe a different way of thinking or problem solving. I don’t mean Henry David Thoreau, and his rambles in nature. My neighbors live more hectic and scheduled existences, I think. But still, they’re out there, in the elements, breathing the air (and sometimes, fumes), sharing space with their animal kin, and feeling the sun or the rain on their faces. Exploring the world
outside the bubble, out there for everyone to see, so that we may know
each other by our face and our gait, and not merely the flash of a car going