Monday, May 19, 2008

Walking Throughout The Year or Taking One's Life In Her Own Hands

When I imagined this post in mid August last year, it was with the intention to rant about the weather, temps, and drivers I encountered while walking. As the reader will see, it came out quite different, and I learned an awful lot from writing the piece. 

This school year began a first for me. I embarked on a full time writing career. Which is to say, I was going on a tough budget. Also it was a first with Daughter. She would have her mother to herself each afternoon when school let out. We pondered transportation. Because of my decision to be a full time writer, we had one car and one car only. So the choices were limited. We decided to make a lifestyle change. We made this decision in the middle of record one hundred degree weather and a disabling drought, not to mention the pollution index. We decided--and thank goodness for our gas tank that that we did--to walk the mile to and from school. This would mean two miles for Daughter, and four miles for me. Oh did I mention that our walk would take us up and down one of the busiest highways in the county? Oh yeah and the walk to the school is up hill three quarters of the way. 

As we began the school year, I prayed for rain. I would not have cared if buckets poured down on me it was so hot. We loved Tuesdays and Thursdays because the condos next door used their sprinklers that covered a good stretch of the sidewalk. It was divine. We fought drivers who chose to stop over the crosswalk and block our safe passage across the intersection. On more than one occasion, I wished I had my camera so I could photo the said offenders and post the photos on my blog. 

But a week or two into the routine I began to slow and really see my neighborhood. Daughter must have felt much the same because on one hot morning, she composed a beautiful poem while we walked in the dawn light. On more than one morning, we were witnesses to the most spectacular sunrises. The sky would be streaked with purple and pink. As we topped Killer Hill, an orange ball of fire sat between two twenty story buildings. The cars were bumper to bumper, going nowhere fast. But we were moving, covering ground. 

I began to use my mp3 player on my part of the walk. I listened to writing podcasts that I had been promising myself I would listen to for forever. Before I knew what was happening, I began to see some of the same faces everyday: a woman walking her terrier, an older woman dressed in a security guard uniform at the bus stop, the fire fighter jogging as his shift ended, high school kids laughing and talking at the corner. We began to smile, nod, and speak to one another. My neighborhood was coming alive for me after seven years of dashing up the road in my car. 

Of course the rain did come two months later when the weather had changed, but we managed. We bought boots, umbrellas, and raincoats. Then the weather turned cold and we geared up with warm hats, gloves, and extra thick coats. 

By this time our bodies began to show a difference from the exercise and diet changes. I drank mostly water and only one cup of coffee each day. Daughter could ride her bike five miles on the local bike trail with no problem. 

When we emerged into spring, parents came up to me, commenting on how wonderful it was I chose to walk. By this point gas prices had really soared and walking was becoming a consideration for many. We became expert judges of careless drivers. But mostly we found that drivers gave the right away to walkers. We soon made a habit of stopping at the local international food market for extras, carrying our purchases home in totes. 

Maybe by walking we have saved a barrel of oil! But as the school year ends this week, I've come to realize how important this time is for me. I've gone through tons of writing podcasts and NPR story readings. I spend much time in uninterrupted talks with Daughter.  I've seen countless birds that I never dreamed were in this busy area. My favorite is a large hawk that catches the breeze and glides high over the traffic. 

The whiny piece I intended to write turned into a self discovery. My world is so much larger than I ever imagined.  I've grown and become polished in my efforts. Will I continue through the summer to get the exercise? Of course, I have to be ready for next school year!

So, the moral of this story is take the time to walk. You just might be surprised at what you learn.


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