a walk to where I go

July 7, 2010

“Wanna walk to Squirrel Hill?” I asked my housemate on a day the weatherman had just informed me would be “oppressively hot.” It was a 2.5-mile trek across Pittsburgh neighborhoods. Each way.

She looked at me like I was crazy. “Well…” she mustered with a disapproving look on her face. She was sitting at her computer looking at pictures on Facebook. “Do you have anything else to do today?” I offered as the only reason I had for why this was a good idea. It worked.

So we set out on our trip. I was inspired by my 60-year-old coworker who lives in Squirrel Hill and walks to and from work every day in East Liberty. Most of the people I work with drive the four blocks down the road to get from our main offices to our food pantry, but this alternative mentality of walking several-mile distances daily seemed so appealing. Usually I bike everywhere, but something about the steady clarity of walking matched the slow-motion mood of the oppressively hot day.

The walk wasn’t great.

By what we decided was the halfway point, we were sweat-dusted and had drained our water bottles in us. We stopped at Pittsburgh Center for the Arts to browse the air conditioning. Our flip-flopped feet were blistering and aching. We stuffed leaves between skin and shoe to dull the pain.

We made it to Ten Thousand Villages, the destination we intended to reach, and back. Even with the difficulties—and likely because of them—walking along with us, it felt like an adventure. Much more than rolling in a car to a store could have. It reminded me of when I lived in Uganda and no one paid much attention to time because everyone walked most places and the journey was just as important as the destination.

The journey is just as important as the destination.

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“I know a secret road that I think might probably take us to Penn Ave,” my housemate said. “It’s just a little steep at the beginning.”

So we pedaled after him on our bikes until we approached the steep incline of the “secret road” which increased our eye width and confronted our legs with the necessity of exhaustive pedaling.biking uphill

There’s nothing quite like pedaling a bike uphill. The forward progress slows and requires clicks to progressively lower gears while increased leg-work feels proportionately less productive and body heat rises too high regardless of outside’s temperature. If the hill is long and steep enough, the body inevitably encounters a point where it seriously contemplates stopping. It would take much less effort to slide on the ground than it would to rotate the tires one more time. But legs keep pushing, inching the bike up.

Eventually I get to the top.

The path flattens and soon turns downward and suddenly I become best friends with strength as it covers me with confidence and relief. Nothing compares to the spinning down the hill that follows, letting wheels plant me in acceleration and wind grow me into fast as I effortlessly stretch up to touch the sun.     

Every time I find myself contained in a scene of wind pressing on me as I fly forward with absolute ease and maybe have a couple people forming a bike gang accompanying me, happiness chews me and swallows me, wears my eyes in a way that makes them in uncontrollable love with everything they see.

Life is better when hilly.

weights2

There’s always that somewhat separate sectioned area of gyms filled with muscly men lifting giant weights. I find this area downright intimidating. I thought that the summer I spent working in a gym and dragging around those giant weights had helped me get past this. Apparently the intimidation is inherent.

It did, however, help today to see the embarrassed grin on one particularly buff man who was lifting weights on a machine, and his friend took a break from talking on his cell phone to the rhythm of his crunches to point out the sign above his head: “This machine for women only.”

Learned Fact of the day: It’s impossible to do the stair stepper machine not to the beat of the music you’re listening to.

New Life Goal: Embark on a mission to find stair-stepping-paced songs.