By: Gabriela Yareliz
While walking home, I opened my new textbook on criminal activity and the law. I always look for book dedications. I am that kind of person. Even though I was walking, it didn’t stop me from shuffling through the pages for the dedication. Even textbooks get dedicated to someone. Inside was a touching dedication to the author’s children, with a lovely note of all of their talents. The dedication was a bit strange, but nonetheless sweet. It was the kind of dedication you would expect in a fiction novel or biography–not in a book about criminal law. It’s that time of the year. The new-textbook smell lingers; plastic wrappers and receipts remind us of how broke we are; but life is good. And one thing I do, even when school is in session, is walk. It’s my vice.
The other day, I was walking through the village, the hot sun blasting the back of my neck with UV rays, and I noted a red stain on the sidewalk. The rest of the walk, I kept wondering who died, and whether it was a blood stain. One of my classic thought moments.
I have been reading an exquisite book called A Philosophy of Walking. I think I need to have a little conversation with Frédéric Gros, the author, because with the way I am walking and exploring, I could become a walking-philosopher disciple or something. I too am interested in the everyday–le quotidien. Those of you who read this blog know it’s a mix of a lot of things. I think life is too interesting to write about just one thing. I don’t think about just one thing, so why write about just one topic or area of life? If I could define this blog, it would be that it’s about the everyday; literally, spiritually, randomly.
In an interview with The Guardian, Frédéric Gros seemed flustered:
“So, Frédéric, you’ve written a whole book about the simple life and joy of walking because your life is too complicated to actually go walking? Is this what happened?
‘Yes… But it is more complicated than that.'”
-Excerpt from The Guardian
Unlike mon ami, M. Gros, I feel the need to walk– despite life’s complications. I adore putting on my backpack and having my Converse hit the pavement. I know that as the semester accelerates, I will continue walking. Walking has been a part of my life, always. We would take family walks. My favorite walks as a child were our walks to Lake Michigan to watch the sunset. I still remember little details from those walks. In law school, walking has been God’s gift to me; part of me keeping my sanity. One of the things I love most when walking is noticing people, details and perspectives that many do not pause to notice. I walk to walk. That’s it. I walk until there is nowhere else to go. I walk until I am too tired to continue.
When you walk, you walk with interesting people. They may not be with you, but they keep you company and entertain you for a good stretch. For example, the two guys in the photo above are best friends. I could tell by the way they walked, talked and laughed together. They practically finished each other’s sentences. Their friendship and joy made me smile. They were very different, yet they seemed close and enmeshed in each other’s daily experience, le quotidien.
“Happiness can be found in the smallest of things. It is our passion to transform your everyday routines into meaningful rituals.”- Street Art
This quote reminds me that, even as we are wrapped up in our routines (which inevitably happens), we must have passion and consciously make each day meaningful and different by taking the time to notice details and the magic of everyday life.
We should notice contrasts, colors, people, smiles, the weather, nature, doors and shadows. Because of technology, people (we the people) don’t know how to connect with one another in person; we don’t know how to live.
Let us not forget to look up; don’t hesitate to look down. Look around. Look at others. And if you catch your reflection, make eye contact with yourself.
As bad as a lot of things are in the world, through the details in the everyday, we can still see God’s love, His mercies, friendship, perseverance, love, success, courage and hope. Beauty reminds us of what we were created for, and it points us to joy and hope. People remind us that we are not alone. Each soul that passes me by has a story. In simplicity, we may find answers to the most complex questions.
According to Gros, some walk to escape; others walk to arrive; some walk to achieve; others to think. For some, walking is their element.
All I know is that when I walk, I feel free; kind of like when I write. I feel engrossed in tiny details I often overlook. I think; I question; I pray; I satisfy my curiosity; I learn.
I think I identify with Rousseau’s idea of walking.
Frédéric Gros interpreted Rousseau’s sentiments on page 79 of A Philosophy of Walking: “When you no longer expect anything. All is then bestowed as a supplement, a gratuitous favour of presence, of being there.” I think that is how I feel. I simply feel alive. I am there. I am grateful.
If you haven’t tried walking yet, I would encourage you to do it. It might be on a scenic country road or through a city street. There is nothing quite as breathtaking as letting life surprise you with its little details.
Below is a photo I will call ‘The Playground Pigeon’. I found him at one of my favorite spots in the city. I have a thing for pigeons. This pigeon, while he can fly, took the time to walk; he is just my type.