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Take a Hike and sharpen your Senses

Colleen Hannegan

This morning I decided to walk to the hardware store to make my purchase instead of automatically reaching for the car keys. My idea was to combine morning exercise with a simple chore. Three miles ’round trip. My walks and hikes are more often in the opposite direction from morning traffic but today I thought I’d see what I could see, and to hear things differently.
As I walked on the sidewalk alongside the zooming commuters, my slow and quiet pace was a stark contrast to speed and noise. I reminded myself of how often I drive too fast to make that green light and too impatiently wait for a sole pedestrian to make it across the street. Do I have to wait until they get all the way across? I sensed that was the thought for those caffeine amped worker bees waiting for me to hop back up on the sidewalk and get outta the way! This morning though, drivers were very patient with me. Not one person tried to mow me down in the crosswalk.
I stood at the busy corner waiting for the red hand to turn into the green walker, a bit self conscious, standing solo, feeling vulnerable and so “seen” while thirty odd drives looked at me. I always check out the walkers waiting for their signal to cross when I’m in my car, waiting my turn. It’s something drivers do. You can’t help it. No other walkers were nearby. I was the one pushing the crossing button and single handedly altering traffic flow. That was a power rush, a push of the button and the world demands I get a chance to cross safely.
I walked along an area near the overpass that was dense with high bushes and noticed someone had been sleeping there recently. I’d never noticed speeding by in my CRV. I walked past a man, waiting at the bus stop, his bike next to him with a flat front tire. We made eye contact and smiled. “Oh, a flat tire.” I said. He replied, “Yeah, my brother gave me a bike but didn’t include the air!” We laughed at his joke.
The landscape maintenance worker respectfully paused his mower and smiled a “Good Morning” as I passed his crew and stepped around the trimmed grass and trees.

I made my purchases then headed back home.

Walking along noisy streets is not my first choice for outdoor exercise. I’m out on wilderness trails and in neighborhood parks getting my exercise almost every day. But once in awhile, walking in my neighborhood helps me to remember how to be a conscious driver; easy on the speed, more patient with pedestrians, aware of the people around me, not just their cars, and pay better attention to what I see and hear. It’s so easy to be distracted inside your car.

I had this funny image of all the people going to work, walking, instead of driving. All lined up at the red lights, standing single file, tapping their foot impatiently. And the commuters in the opposite direction, walking quickly through the intersection while they had the green light favor. All that serious speed and heavy metal replaced with……..just people walking. If they had to yell at each other instead of use their horn, would they think twice? Afterall, cutting someone off while you’re walking would look rather ridiculous.

I love having my car. I really enjoy moving along and listening to music and getting from here to there in a very short time. But today I wanted to just move at my own easy paced 3 MPH and remind myself I have a choice, to stop look and listen, no matter how fast I’m moving.