Monday, July 25, 2022

Where Does a Walk Around the Block Take You?

One of the things I like about my daily walks is that there’s always something to see. Sometimes it’s flies clustered around just-opened willow flowers. Sometimes it’s the way a Virginia creeper spirals up the trunk of a tree. After a wind storm it might be treasures blown down from the treetops: twigs with interesting lichens, bird nests, seeds with helicopter rotors attached…

Recently I’ve been reading the stories Spike Carlsen tells in his book, Walk Around the Block (HarperCollins, 2020). He’s an urban walker, in Minnesota. So he writes about snow. He also writes about manhole covers, recycling bins, bike lanes, crosswalks, and how water gets to his house – and where it goes after it slurks down the drain.

Carlsen asks questions: what happened to the front porch? It used to be the place where neighbors would pull up a rocking chair or milk crate and chit chat. He takes readers on tours through a power plant, a sewer, a trash museum, even the inner-workings of a post office. How does the mail get from there to here? He opens our eyes to appreciate the natural side of things as well… things like pigeons, squirrels – even roadkill.

This is the sort of book that makes you want to walk slow enough that you can inspect the weeds pushing between the cracks in the sidewalk. This is the sort of book that inspires you to head outside before the sun dries the dew so you can look at spiderwebs on the fence. 

This is the sort of book that makes you wonder: if I walk around the block today, what will I find? And leads one to ask: does it matter how I walk around the block? If I go in a counter-clockwise direction, will I see things differently? What if I play hopscotch with the fallen walnuts and hickory nuts? Walk at a snail’s pace? 

A Dozen Walks to take Around Your Block
  1. Walk sideways, like a crab
  2. Walk with a child
  3. Skip part of the way
  4. Walk backward (when you’re in a safe place)
  5. Look at all the flowers on your route
  6. Listen to the birds
  7. Notice people working ~ what are they doing?
  8. Walk at first light
  9. Walk after dark
  10. Look at doorways
  11. Examine things growing in the sidewalk
  12. Stop and smell the _______.

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