This I Believe

Shoshauna - Madison, Wisconsin
Entered on June 14, 2006
Age Group: 50 - 65
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I believe in walking. I do my best thinking at 2-1/2 mph. That’s how long it takes to walk to work. I’m a poet who can’t sit at a desk and compose; I have to be in motion, have to feel the ground under my feet, smell the earth in a wet wind, watch the scenery slowly change.

I didn’t realize this until I missed my bus to work one winter day, and ended up relying on manual motion to make it there. I found myself taking back roads, alleyways and a lakeside path to get downtown. Then I discovered what a respite walking provided between parenting in my hectic household and answering phones at the office. Suddenly I had time alone, time to sort things out, time to stumble on solutions to dinner plan mix-ups, family issues and vacation date conflicts. And the chance, pad of paper and pen in hand, to write. I also learned that although walking five miles a day afforded me solitude, it was also a way to connect socially with other people who had gotten out of their cars and off the buses and were walking, jogging or biking too. That’s when I started to make walking an essential part of my life. Getting errands done by taking the fastest route from Point A to Point B by car as I used to do to save time for doing something else became — well, pointless. I had to ask myself why not make the journey itself enjoyable and of equal importance?

Since this decision, I have gotten to make the acquaintance of neighbors’ dogs, return stray cats to their owners, find strangers’ stolen wallets and lost Social Security checks, and delivered mail to its rightful address after it spent a winter in the gutter under snow. I’ve received invitations to potlucks, inherited garden tomatoes, retrieved the fraying threads of old friendships, overheard piano practices in action and smelled bread baking in other kitchens. I’ve become more aware of weather and the transition between seasons – How ice gives way to soft mud, when the owls depart and redwing blackbirds return, the angle of the 8:00 AM sun in February and August. Walking and acquainting myself with the shopkeepers of the locally-owned businesses instead of driving to the big box marts on the periphery of town has made my neighborhood in this bustling city feel more friendly, more like a community.

And there’s another bonus built right into my schedule: I have that much-chased-after satisfaction known universally as “the time to write.” Every poet’s dream.