Monday, August 3, 2009

Walking

Walking in urban nature:

I love to take walks. Apart from the joy of exercise, walking in urban nature settings can be a joy of observation and discovery.

I was a lucky child. My father took me on long walks. On these walks to local parks, he would stop and explain to me how to identify trees by their bark, leaves, and fruit. He pointed out wildflowers. He taught me to see things that most people would never see. We watched birds and animals. He taught me to listen and how to be quiet. At night, he showed me the stars and the planets, pointed out constellations, and told me some of their stories and myths. In short, he installed in me a curiosity that grew as I did.

As a child, I was always the one peeking under things, poking into bushes, tasting berries, smelling blossoms, and looking for four leafed clovers. I had my own magnifying glass.

Fast forward many years and I am still on that same walk. A book on birds in one pocket, a curious leaf I gathered in the other. I am passed by joggers with cyber-attachments to tell them when they have achieved maximum heat rate efficiency, and wires in their ears to drown out the sounds of their own footsteps. Shaved head bikers with sunglasses roar by on motorcycles, living the consumer culture rebel dream. I walk on the grass, where nobody but the occasional dog or sunbather strays. All of humanity tends to stick to the pavement when possible.

There are others like me. Occasionally I will spot someone walking and pausing, looking into a tree, or watching a cloud. Once, a few years back, I was looking at a woodpecker through my binoculars, when a couple stopped and asked me “what I was looking for.” I answered “The meaning of life.”

I am going for a walk. Where to, I do not know.
Won’t you join me?

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ignatius, I think your valve is stuck again.

Cutthroat Stalker (Scott) said...

Erik,

You are very lucky to have such a wonderful influence in your life. I hope in some way you are passing it on to future generations.

"Shaved head bikers with sunglasses roar by on motorcycles" cuts a little close to home since I shave my head (going bald, so it's easier to shave it off than deal with a comb-over), I wear sunglasses when there is the least hint of sun and I ride a motorcycle. Although I wear a helmet, so you can't tell I'm bald or wearing sunglasses ;-)

Walking is great! I don't live close to much urbanity, so my walking is done in town and country (we live on the edge of a designated "wilderness area" so most walking is done in "the wilderness"). I'm lucky in that many of my neighbors are like-minded with a high percentage enjoying the wildlife that comes into our yards (deer, occasionally moose and cougar, wild turkeys, many birds, etc.) and walking or cross country skiing into the wilderness surrounding our homes.

"Won't you join me?" reminds me of Robert Frost's invitation in The Pasture when he says, "You come too."

Erik Helm said...

Scott,
The motorcycle comment is because I am from ground zero, Milwaukee WI. Home of Harley and roaring noise. Everyone here competes as to who can have the loudest exhaust...

Good point about the Frost reference.

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