As I walk across Minneapolis’ lakes, my pace slowed* both by the resistance of snow and wind and by my fascination with every sight and sound, I think about scale a lot. There are drivers on the bridges above me, caged up in steel, bikers and wind surfers zipping past me, skiers who half nod at my also human shape when we pass each other.
I think about other people and about time: from the middle of Lake of the Isles, Google tells me it takes me 60 minutes to walk to City Hall, 35 minutes by the bus, 20 minutes to bike, 15 minutes to drive. Google maps (and our conversations) assume some equivalency in these, and implicitly, my walking is by comparison inefficient, less than, too much work or time or luxury or burden.
But a driving minute is a totally different unit of time than a walking minute. The experiences aren’t parallel. Walking isn’t driving slowed down. When I walk, I experience the world in a more vivid and fuller way. I am in motion with my city, in my posture, in my steps, in what I can take in with every sense and in what I give back in every sense.
To walk is to be of a place. It’s to see it, to hear it, to exist in it. It’s the difference between a book review and a book, being told a dream and dreaming it, reading a recipe and tasting the results.
When I walk, everything is mine. Or, to be more accurate, when I walk, I am part of everything and satisfied with all that I am within that.
It’s the ice formations and the sewer covers and tiny mushrooms and spider webs. It’s the people I run into and the cadence of my body in motion. It’s the cleaner air and clearer views and the comfort in my own skin that comes from feeling my body and mind connect in a way that sitting doesn’t allow.
When I walk, there is nothing to park, nothing to pay. I am unencumbered, self-contained, open to possibility, connected, independent, enough. That’s what happens in the extra minutes it takes me from when I leave the door of my home and when I arrive at the meeting we’re both heading to. I can’t imagine a more efficient way to traverse the city.
* In summer, I flit about at 3.5-4MPH, 2,000 steps per mile. In the winter, I’m going as slow as 2MPH with all my stopping, and it takes me 2,500 steps to lumber a mile.