Vacation is best taken in big chunks. I like taking my vacation a week at the time. But from time to time, I get a day off here and a day off there.
Last Monday was one of those days. I spent the vast majority of the day at my desk at home, where I have a view of the front yard and the church across the street.
But what caught my attention was the number of people out walking, jogging, pushing baby strollers and being led by their dogs.
All day long, they paraded back and forth with the sun alternately shining in their faces or warming their backs.
There were men and women, blacks and whites, fat people and skinny people. Nearly all of them were adults and most of them appeared to be younger adults. Some of the joggers had those pedometers strapped to their arms, which I guess help them determine how far they’ve gone. Lots of people had earbuds in.
When I sat down at my desk it was about 9 a.m. and I spent most of the next eight hours at the desk working on stuff. The constant foot traffic outside my picture window gave me plenty of reasons to be distracted. I am a walker, too, though I mostly do it so the dog can get some exercise and I do it relatively late at night because that’s when I have time and I’m less likely to run into other folks that the dog would rather eat than greet.
But the folks walking back and forth past my house weren’t trying to make a dog happy. This seemed to be a part of their day. And, except for one jogger – a muscle-bound man who looked like he was in his early 50s – all the people wore happy expressions.
Walking is cheap exercise. And, while you may build firmer thighs and trimmer tummies by taking part in more strenuous exercises, there’s a big intrinsic benefit to walking. You get to see stuff.
Think about it. Most of us travel our normal routes to and from work and home, to the stores we frequent, or the places we like to play, but we don’t often stop to look at what’s around us. We’re thinking about the upcoming stop sign or our next turn, how long it will take us before we get where we’re going... in short, we’re rushing mentally.
That doesn’t happen when you walk. Most walkers aren’t on a tight schedule. Most walkers aren’t walking to get somewhere other than back where they started.
I try to avoid going to downtown Raleigh. Most of the time, when I go, I am headed to my specific destination. I get there. I park in the parking deck and I go inside. Occasionally, I go to downtown Raleigh for some reason other than work and when I get out of my car and walk to my destination, I’m fascinated by how many cool shops, stores and restaurants there are in downtown.
When I walk my dog, even at night, I’m able to see the new houses under construction in the neighborhood around the corner from my house. I probably know more about the construction of some of my neighbor’s houses than the people who live in them know. And, interestingly, what was once a walk through a neighborhood of mostly woods, thanks to the recent reignition of the home construction industry is now a stroll past lot after tree-covered lot laid bare of trees, replaced by two-story houses that looks painfully like the houses five lots down the street.
Still, I’ve had a front-row seat to watch my neighborhood change. That’s what the walkers and joggers I saw passing my house on Monday get to see every day when they go for a stroll. All 11 gazillion of them.