Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Walking

Sorry, Internet is spotty here, and I can't upload a song.

I've written about walking before. Back in the fall when I had the pedometer. It broke. And I lost focus. Until now. Briefly?

I don't know why I don't walk in Chattanooga. Even in the summers, when it's hard to keep busy at work, I can barely drag myself down to the bookstore to check the mail, even though I intentionally don't have my mail delivered to my office so that I will walk down there and check it. I've got to force myself to drag my dog around the block. If he gets it all done within two houses, we turn around and head home. I know I should tour the neighborhood on foot in the evening, when it's cooler, but I don't do that either.

But get me down here in Florida, and I become a walking machine. Get me in New Orleans or Rome or Paris or Gatlinburg and I'll walk all day. Put me anywhere--Key West, Charleston, Chicago-- and I've got one, primary mode of transportation. Just not in Chattanooga. I can't figure it out.

Maybe it's because in Chattanooga, to get to a place to walk, you've got to drive.

Those of you who know me would be amazed to see me down here in Venice, Florida, out on a Tuesday morning at 7:15AM with my running shoes (irony intentional) on, headphones in my ears, striding at a pretty aggressive clip down Rockley Boulevard, past three-story condos, townhomes, Mexican landscapers, Sandhill Cranes, golf holes, tennis courts, and dark, wooded swamp areas, beautifully-sculpted and held back from the road, that still likely contain all of the wild creatures that Florida has to offer. Especially if you knew that I had already been out at the same time on Sunday and Monday. That's what time I get up in Chattanooga.

When you get down here to Florida, there is an extra incentive to walk. You know what I mean, don't you? It's all of the machines. You see them just about everywhere, those motorized rides for the elderly and the disabled--in grocery stores, driving down the road, heck, even out walking! That's right. While the wife is walking, the husband is cruising along right beside her. While the owner is walking, the aged pet rides in front of her in a child's stroller.

In Florida, you can't help but ponder getting older, and the realization hits you (however obvious it may seem from a far, abstract distance) that if you can't get around when you are older under your own power, if you give up your mobility too early, your options in those later years will be severely limited. You stare that reality in the face. Believe me, that puts a little extra speed in your step.

Especially when you're out there at 7:15AM and you see the other walkers out there and they're all older than you are and you wonder why they're walking so fast and where they're in such a hurry to get to.

Yeah, it's another obvious revelation. Sorry about that. They are trying to walk themselves toward the ever-receding destinations--health, independence. Who isn't or shouldn't be?

It can't be overstated. Walking is life. And this is in no way intended to offend those who can't walk because of some lifelong condition. But for the rest of us, we have no business walking up to our cars at the end of a work day, feeling that heavy, unused quality in our legs that tells us we've been sitting too long.

Because what follows from there? A night of sitting while you eat, sitting while you watch TV, lying down while you sleep?

It's nothing but the earth pulling you home. Will you let it?

3 comments:

Thom Anon said...

My folks are from Gatlinburg and every time they visit for a weekend in Brooklyn, we do so much walking they always swear they'll go home and really get in perambulating shape this time. Which eventually, inevitably comes to nought in the car-centric South.

Maybe I'll send my mom a link to this post and a couple of Emily Dickinson Death Poems and see if that makes any difference to their inertia.

-T

Billy said...

Wonderful post. This is, without question, the most alluring and delicious part for me about visiting NYC. The idea that you can live amongst so many people, and so many places, and rarely if ever long to get inside your own car is totally alien to life in the South.

Walking along a beach - for miles, even - is rarely a bad experience, either.

troutking said...

Ain't talkin'. Just walkin'. Bob Dylan