Sunday, November 25, 2012

Walking ForThe Moment

Walking serves a purpose. As humans the peripatetic mode of transportation is the natural set of events that starts us off in one place and sees us arrive at another. According to Rebecca Solnit in her book Wanderlust: A History of Walking, walking shows us 'the sense of  place that can only be gained on foot." So what of that space in between the destinations? That space when covered by air, train, car or bicycle becomes a blur. It becomes merely the scenery we pass in our rush through life. It rests as that space in our lives that we may never know.
That space however is alive. It begs to be explored and to be appreciated.
Walking is the most basic means of connecting with your surroundings. Walking allows you to be in the moment by awakening your senses and thus making you feel truly alive. Other, faster modes of transportation offer at best a glimpse of the beauty and wonder that the world has to offer. We see this too in those tours that shuffle you from one sight to another stopping only for five minutes at a time to snap pictures before being herded back onto your mode of massive movement.

A view of the Southwestern desert landscape from an airplane.
Tours and rapid transit tease us, offering a cursory experience that fools us into believing we have truly participated in the heritage, history or holiness of a sight.
Travel leaves me hungry. It is not enough to witness the world through window panes and with my nose pressed upon glass barriers on buses and in museums.
Travel stirs my curiosity. Why do desert landscapes call to me? How do I begin to follow the scents of markets, damp streets and exotic foods?
I get off the bus and walk.
Not only did I see all of this on Mulberry St. NYC, I also heard, felt, smelled and tasted all that this neighbourhood had to offer.
I have been fortunate over the years to have walked many places.When I was young I walked the beaches and cobbled streets of Europe. I walked up the Klein Matterhorn in Switzerland one summer day breathing in the sweet grass and flowers and stopping to taste breads, cheese and warm milk just like Heidi did. More recently I walked through New York City neighbourhoods, their flavours seeping like osmosis into my consciousness through the very act of being there. I fingered smooth marble edifices and pages upon pages of familiar books in the public library.
I walked the Strip in Las Vegas. Not only did I see the fountains at the Bellagio, I felt the cool mist under the midday summer sun. I could hear the music and smell the sweat of the world as it raced by.
I walked the desert floor for the first time, sinking to my knees in awe of the red desert sand which I promptly let sift slowly through my fingers. I was keenly aware of the give and take mother nature has to offer as little lizard eyes cautiously took in my presence, living their own life moments.
At one with my environment.
Even the briefest of walks can consume one's senses. A quick walk through Philadelphia introduced me to the sounds of its street musicians and to the taste of its famous cheese steak.I looked into the eyes of a homeless woman on the streets of Philadelphia and saw as she grew tall, confident, even eloquent after I shared my food with her. The human connections are just as important through life's journeys as the ones we make with the natural world.
Man meets nature in Washington Square park NYC.

I don't just imagine the feel of this grass against my ankles and the smell of the cool salty ocean air. I was there with my kids exploring the Eastern Canadian seaside together.
Being 'there' wherever that may be ignites the reality of my life and all its passions.
It is the holistic experiences that teach us the best. Do not be content to look at life through someone else's lenses. Go for a walk. Feel your way around the world you are making for yourself.

1 comment:

  1. Indeed... you know what I noticed... out of a plane window, the american desert looks a heck of a lot like Iran... hmmm... perhaps there's a story in there somewhere.