Melody Warnick has it right. Walking your own streets makes it easier to love where you live. As soon as the last snows melt away, I initiate the daily ritual of an early dawn three mile morning walk. The walk clears the head and starts off the busy day in the right way. There is something about the slow pace of foot hitting pavement that enables one to see, really see what is there - the rising sun rays hitting and reflecting off the panes in house windows, the parade of flowers in their season - yellow crocus in spring, daylilies and daffodils in the mid- season, the multi-colored mums and ripening sedums in the fall. One can find hidden pocket parks or alleys that one would have never seen behind the windshield of a car.
Walking awakens all the senses. On the route I always take, my feet get to know the peculiar bumps and knots in the sidewalks. Maybe there is the faint smell, a tinge of coffee brewing or the leftover scents of last night's barbecue. Early morning birdsong fills the air or sometimes, I can hear the faint whispers of conversations happening inside of homes. I love this walk. I love my neighborhood because my feet make it mine.
I also love that I stick to the same route every day. The seasons change the scenery so it is never boring, but there is some comfort in the routine of it all. For years, I've seen the same middle aged man doing his morning walk in the opposite direction. We usually pass each other by Duffy Field. He usually is wearing his bud earphones. We smile to each other and wave as we pass. I see the same man on his porch on Vassar Street each morning reading the newspaper. We also nod our heads to each other in acknowledgment.
In her book, Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jane Jacobs spells out the minute details of her early morning waking to the city life on Hudson Street in Greenwich Village. She puts out the garbage, sees the junior high students dropping candy wrappers on the ground. After she sweeps the wrappers, she notes the predictable scheduled activities of her neighbors - the barber putting out the chair on the sidewalk, the stacking of empty crates at the deli, Mr Halpert unlocking a laundry cart, Mr. Goldstein opening the hardware store. The elementary school children stomp on by. Well dressed workers head off towards the subway. Referring to this scripted activity with precise entrance and exits of the players as "street ballet", she declares, "We have done this many a morning for more than ten years and we both know what it means. All is well."
Sometimes I miss my entrance to the neighborhood on my early morning walks. My son needs a snuggle or I roll back over to get some extra time to sleep. Time passes. On these lazy mornings when I just can't get out before 5:30, Maria will shout out to me when I reach the Pleasant Market, "You're late today!" I don't even know George and Maria's last name. I don't know the name of the man who reads the paper on his porch or the man who nods to me near Duffy field. But somehow it mattered that I was not here to play my part. "Overslept!" I might say to her and I smile inside. My being an integral part of this dance makes me connected to them and to the streets in my neighborhood. In that moment, I feel like I belong here.