November 15, 2007

Walking, a response to Paul Bray's column in the Albany Times-Union, November 11

For a long time I used to walk to work, it was the best part of my day. My habitual route took me down New Scotland Ave. to Washington Park, through the Park, past Moses & Bobbie Burns, on to State St., sometimes down Spring St., sometimes down Washington Ave., to One Commerce Plaza. I estimated the distance at about two and a half miles. For most days of the year I could do it. But if it was below 20 degrees, or raining or snowing, or the sidewalks were impassable due to the Winter’s accumulation of snow, I would take the bus. And most days I took the bus home after work.

But the mornings were the best. Friends would pass by & offer me a ride. I would tell them, “No thanks, this is the best part of my day. If you see me walking, beep & wave, but if you see me standing at a bus stop you can offer me a ride.”

It was like Zen or the yoga of walking; sometimes I would reach the park & not recall anything I’d seen since leaving home. Many a personal dilemma or work problem got sorted out, sometimes consciously, often without me being fully aware of it. And I’ve written many poems that way. “Therese’s Balcony” (about Spring St.), & “Joe Krausman” were directly inspired by what happened on my walk; and “Baghdad/Albany,” about the invasion of Baghdad in March 2003, was “written” in my head during many mornings, then finally put down on paper late one night with hardly a cross-out or change. I once gave myself an assignment to write whatever was in my head when I first sat down at my desk at work in the morning. Of course, what got written was largely a response to what I had seen on my walk to work, sometimes a full-blown poem, sometimes just word play. A few of these short pieces were eventually published in a small chapbook by Boog Literature.

Now that I am retired from my job, I don’t walk every morning. When I am going downtown to the Library for the noontime book review, or on Wednesday to the peace vigil in front of the Capitol, I will walk. And I often walk to the local Price Chopper just about a mile away, maybe stop at the Muddy Cup for a cappuccino, or get a book from the Pine Hills Branch of the Library. While I miss my daily walk-to-work, I try to walk to as many places as I can & as often as possible, glad to live in a city where walking is still an option.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dan,

What a brillant blog. I understand. Although I am a young man of 27 I lived the cliche of having to walk a mile to and from school in all kinds of weather when I was in high school. It was my favorite part of the day. It provided me with the energy and mental preparation to deal with the bullshit that is high school and it gave me time to decompress at the end of the day.

Taking a walk outside, of at least one mile, once a day is one of the best things anybody could do for themselves.

sb

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