Atop Hawk Mountain, Pa., 2010

Atop Hawk Mountain, Pa., 2010
Photo by R.E. Berg-Andersson

Saturday, July 16, 2011


I did something radical this morning. I walked. In the suburbs. Yes.

Until the end of March I walked almost every day, most of the time to the train station in town. This was the reason we moved to this little town, the ease of walking to public transportation to my job, first in Jersey City and then in midtown Manhattan.

When that job ended in February I started taking daily walks very early in the morning through what has now become a county park, Central Park of Morris County, but used to be the nether regions of the state Greystone Park psychiatric hospital. I heard and saw a lot of birds in those early March trips.

Then I got a new job and it required me to drive to a city on the Hudson River, 35 or so miles away as Route 80 flies.

Things become a blur from the car because you have to concentrate on the road, on your driving, on other cars. The brain isn't stimulated, at least not in what I think is the right way, and the legs aren't being exercised. You get where you are going faster, but you don't enjoy the trip as much.

So this morning I decided that rather than grab the car to do all my local errands I would walk.

It was a real eye-opener, starting with my own yard. How did that butterfuly bush get so tall? Seems like just yesterday I was cutting it back the way you're supposed to in spring to generate new growth.

When did that house on the next block go up for sale? It always has a nice garden, put in with an eye to saving time and water while using plants that deter deer without netting. Will the new owner keep the garden, or will it be removed in favor of just grass or, worse, paved over?

When did that other house rip out its old, tall hedges and put in a sprinkler system that waters the public curb about as much as it waters the small, nondescript replacement shrubs? I used to hear a lot of sparrows chattering to each other from their nests in those hedges. When did that house a few streets away double in size? It's on a lot that hasn't gotten any bigger. I guess people prefer the climate-controlled, soundproofed, technology-driven great indoors and have less yard they'd only have to pay someone to take care of anyway.

I walked along the Greystone road, past the dog park that had only a couple of people letting their pets run at that hour, and found all the deer I chase out of my yard and then some - many had fawns hiding in the long meadow grass. I heard bluebirds, carolina wrens, cardinals. Once I leave my house I rarely hear birds on my drive through town and never on Route 80, where the posted speed is 65 but that is more a floor than a ceiling.

I said good morning to other walkers and waved at neighbors getting their newspapers from the curb. I felt the welcome ache of muscles being used in my legs. I felt the breeze in my hair and the sun, not amplified by the greenhouse effect of my metal car, on my neck.

I enjoyed myself greatly, and I even got my chores done.

Alot of people spend a ton of money to go to exotic locales where they can walk through a rain forest or along a beach or tour museums and historic sites.

Today I was reminded that sometimes you don't have to go far, or do more than put on a pair of sneakers, to get away from it all while reconnecting with the world around you.

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