June 29, 2015 by Paula Reed Nancarrow
Saturday morning I took a walk, for a class assignment in noticing things.
As I mentioned in my last post, I am taking a course in Mindfulness and Creativity. I was told to remember this was not a power walk – as if that were an option I had ever entertained. I do have an app on my phone that maps my walk and does an approximate rendering of caloric intake (which feels like a coupon for a free dessert), so I turned that on, but I’ve never been one of those fast and focused walkers. Not like the ones I see going around Lake Calhoun in spandex and high rise Barbie ponytails, sometimes with weights in each arm.
“Amble, pause and explore,” we were told. Those are power words to me. Though I am not really sure that I did quite enough ambling.
I begin on the street I had lived on for three years, in my friend Katherine’s condo.
Technically the “street” is an avenue, though to me that seems a grandiose description. I took a recorder, and talked to myself as I walked. It used to be that when you saw someone doing that in the city, you figured they were hearing voices; now it attracts little notice.
I take a good look at the façade of the building, the cluster of tiger lilies in front, the fur trees, one with some brown in the middle. There are benches out front, and last week while I was waiting for a friend to pick me up for breakfast I deadheaded all the peonies. Perhaps it was my imagination, but they seemed relieved.
I wonder again what those purple, bell-like flowers are called.
They look familiar. When I took what the kids came to know as my “prayer walks” when we were on vacation every summer up in Eagle Harbor, in the Upper Penninsula of Michigan, I found myself eager to know the names of things: the fir trees, the wild flowers, even the rocks on the beach: greenstone, agate, quartz.
It occurs to me that I could take a picture. I regularly forget I have a camera on my phone. When I go home, I look the flower up. One I read the scientific name, Campanula – better known as Bellflower (duh) – I realize they are familiar because I have grown them in my own garden. I knew the names of many perennials then. These names are more blocked than forgotten. I want that knowledge back.
I see more than one mulberry tree.
It is difficult to know why people plant mulberries; they’re what my father would call a “dirty tree.” Birds love them; but birds rarely pick the branches clean; and they grow so fast it is difficult to keep them trimmed. No one seems to harvest the berries, which are supposedly good for wine, and jam. The branches that hang over the sidewalk make a mess on the concrete, and if you’re not careful, you carry that mess in the tread of your shoes.
I pass the storefront where the old Butter Bakery was.
They’re over on Nicollet Avenue now and I’ve been there, but it’s just a little too sanitized for me. I like the feel of this one better, capping the end of my street, between Present Moment Herbs and Books and the soapy smell of the Laundromat. I peer inside at the mural no one sees anymore.
I have never browsed in the Present Moment. This needs to be done, but not now.
Oh Paula. If not now, when?
I walk up toward 38th Street, intending to loop around by my old apartment.
The one I lived in as a graduate student, before I was married. The one I survived a tornado in with the man who would become my husband. When I first moved in with Katherine, I felt a wave of nostalgia, seeing that place so close. It represented new love and the last of my independence, all at the same time. It made me feel young, and almost like a student of things again, until I told Katherine about it, and when I lived there, and she said, “Yeah, I was three then.”
So much for feeling young again.
It is interesting, listening to the recording, how many sounds I did not notice when I was walking and talking.
The neighbor hammering on his porch. The backgrounded birds. The traffic noises that I filter out without realizing it. The airplanes. As I continue, the recorder in my hand, my arms gravitate to my sides, and I forget to speak in its direction. Often I can hear my footsteps better than I can my own voice.
I suppose that means something, but I do not know what. Fortunately I do not have to create a story now. I just have to pay attention.