Friday, September 22, 2006

On Walking

(If only this were my daily walk.)

I’ve started walking again.

I’ve been a walker most of my life. I tease my girls about how when I was young, I had to walk three miles to school through snow and sleet and winter gales. It’s a line that always gets an eye roll, but it’s only a slight exaggeration. I did have a long walk to school and, at one point, it was three miles (apartments farther from campus are always cheaper). And since I lived in northern Idaho at the time, those walks frequently involved various frozen forms of H2O.

When I lived in Paris, my daily walk to the Biblioteque Nationale took me from the Isle de la Cite, across Pont Neuf to the Louvre, then up the Tuileries to the Palais Royal. It was a constant pinch-me-so-I-can-be-sure-this-is-real experience. In Winchester, I’d walk down a High Street little changed in hundreds of years, then pause on a bridge arching over an old mill stream to wonder at the mill that was still there, all these years later. In Sydney, I’d save bus money by walking from my house in Glebe to the downtown to go shopping. Over the years, my daily walks have taken me along ancient hillsides in the Middle East (where, on a few memorable occasions, I encountered machine gun fire and tanks), across Athens through the Plaka to the Acropolis, and through the Adelaide hills, where laughing kookaburras and brilliantly-colored parrots flitted through the gum trees.

For the last few years, my daily walks haven’t been very interesting. I love my house, but I have to admit the neighborhood is architecturally ho-hum, and while I could theoretically walk out to the lake, it would require breathing more exhaust fumes than I care to expose myself to. But until the storm, I still tried to go for a walk most mornings. My daily walks were just one more thing washed away by Katrina. At first I was simply too busy. Lately, I’ve just been too distracted.

A cousin’s recent diagnosis of stage three ovarian cancer provided the impetus I needed to get moving again. The neighborhood’s architecture is still rather blah, but Katrina has certainly made my walks more interesting. Now I find myself detouring around FEMA trailers that jut out onto the sidewalk, watching the progress of my neighbors’ renovations, counting for sale signs. I am frankly horrified to realize how many houses have simply been gutted and abandoned—although with one exception people are still cutting their lawns, which is why I guess I never noticed them when driving through the neighborhood.

Compared to the parts of New Orleans that went under 8-12 feet, my neighborhood was only lightly damaged. It’s been almost 13 months. God help us.

80 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

I'm sorry to hear about your cousin's cancer. I'll be hoping for the best.

I've been a walker all my life as well. I kind of got away from it living in Metairie, partly because the walks were so boring. But now that I'm out in the country I've reaquainted myself with the practice and am loving it.

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