Tuesday, January 28, 2014

     A short post:  who sent me a postcard about walking?  

     Very sweet.  Thank you whoever you are.

Monday, January 13, 2014

    Hooray! the sun is out!  These are the same rooftops of last week.  No snow, no grey: just red brick, trees, blue sky, and sunshine.  I never thought weather affected me as much as it does before these last few years.  

    Is it because I'm getting older?  

    Is it because I've lived in Chicago for over 40 years?

    Certainly the weather in general hasn't been that bad with a few exceptions.  But I am just not equipped to live with grey skies, icy cold air, snow/ice covered sidewalks.  I am just not any more. Ten, twenty years ago, thirty years ago I just grinned and bore it.  Donned my boots and hats and heavy coats and went out to work or to school every morning.  Waited at bus stops shivering, trying to stay out of the arctic wind.  Walked on slippery streets gingerly.  And I did it.  

    Not anymore.  I just can't do it anymore.  So - hooray for the sun and warmer temperatures today.  Let's hear it.  I even opened the door to the roof in my attic loft because it was too warm.  Can you imagine that?

Monday, January 6, 2014

    It never fails.  Once I start looking for something that I never thought about before, a whole slew of stuff falls on my lap, or comes up on my screen.  So - I started reading "Wanderlust" as part of the research to write an essay about not driving. I asked people who do not drive to send me their thoughts.  And yesterday a friend calls my attention to a "Car free poetry anthology". Looking at that website I discover an online journal "Carbusters: Journal of the Carfree Movement."  Ain't that something?

    Take a look at the journal: www.carbusters.org.  Who knew!  I always felt alone in my carless status.  I always thought I was missing something because of my inability to drive.  In these U.S. of As, not knowing how to drive a car is tantamount to having three heads and a tail.  What?!  You don't drive?  Why not?  What kind of weirdo are you?  I'm not kidding.

    Browsing said journal I find out that Groningen is the world's cycling city.  More than half its population ride bicycles to work every day.  Groningen is in the Netherlands, the sixth largest city, not that big I grant you.  But what's more peculiar is the fact that I've been to Groningen.  About ten years ago I attended an academic conference and spent time in the city.  Lovely, Dutch, good shoe shops, friendly people.  


    So - "Carbusters" promotes bicycling as the superior mode of transportation.   Many articles about bikes and cities with positive policies for bicyclists, with dedicated lanes, a bicycle manifesto, lots and lots of good bike stuff.  Here is my predicament: I do not bike either.  I could but I have a difficult time with the right pedal given the before-mentioned problem.  

    Will I be ostracized again for not biking?  What's a person to do who can mostly just walk and that's sometimes a challenge?  

    Write your suggestions and send them to me.  Or post them here.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

     In her book "Wanderlust: A History of Walking" Rebecca Solnit writes about new public spaces designed without sidewalks.  I remember my dismay when I first saw suburbs without sidewalks in the USA or my first stay in the Southwest Side of Chicago where - despite wide, clean sidewalks - no one walked.  Empty streets.  Nobody out.  Mother and I would stare out of the window and wonder where the people were.  And, if you saw someone, you worried.  Who is he? Where is she going? Why isn't she in a car?  Why is he walking?  

     Pedestrians are suspected.  Yet, the joy and utility of walking is an accepted fact.  Starting my research for an essay on "not driving", I read "Wanderlust" and discover many, many famous and not-so-famous people who were avid walkers.  Professional walkers I'd say.  And discover a variety of books about walking.  

     Some of Solnit's words are quotable:

"...walking's peculiar utility for thinkers..."
"...walking you live with others, not inside rooms..."
"...unpredictable incidents between official events that add up to a life..."

     And some facts I learned from her so far:

- the natural pace is 3 miles/hour
- Rousseau could only think when he walked
- other philosophers who walked: Hegel, Kant, Kierkegaard, Hobbes, Mill, Wittgenstein

     Some of these philosophers walked back and forth in order to create.  And I remember (in Buenos Aires) my friend's father - a short man, quiet and absent-minded - who would walk back and forth the length of his living-room, hands behind his back, head tilted forward, for ten, twenty minutes, without talking, just thinking.  I was a girl of 6 or 7 or 8 when we'd go visit his wife and daughter with my mother.  The four of us would sit and chat, play, drink tea or coffee, while he walked back and forth, completely absorbed in his thoughts.  After a while, when he was done, he'd look up and say something like: "oh, hello, how are you?" as if we had just arrived.  He was a world-famous geologist who worked for the United Nations and ran big projects in Africa and Latin America.  That was the first time I learned the value of walking as a tool for thinking, discovering, inventing.  

     More on walking later.  Now - my dilemma - how do I walk outdoors to think and learn when the temperatures are plunging and the sidewalks are slippery and snow-covered?   I guess I have to walk inside - from the dining-room to the living-room and back, over and over, and hope something brilliant comes to me.  


Thursday, January 2, 2014

     I didn't let the weather bully me.  I will not allow the snow and wind and cold deny me the pleasure of walking outdoors.  I went out to meet a friend for lunch, walked a few blocks, jumped over piles of snow, slid over unseen surfaces, buried my legs in wet snow on corners.  The wind hurt my cheeks only, the rest of me was covered.  

     But I made it there and back!  Yeah!  I'm proud of myself and happy for doing it.  In the meantime, snow continues to fall.  I wonder now - will it ever stop?  

     Now it is time to write.  

Look at the snow and imagine you are elsewhere. 
Start your writing with: if I weren't here I would be at ...