I missed my walking date yesterday.
And so today when my daughter said, “Hey ma, meet me for lunch.” I vowed to walk from TriBeCa north to SOHO to meet her. No big walk, but I am afraid I am fighting this ambulation as I just do not get it.
As I attemped to joyfully sallie forth, I jealously followed every man and woman who rolled past me on a bike. It was cold, but they seemed properly dressed, and I was miserable. I was hot inside, but cold outside. I had no gloves and I was slow.
I was part of the hoi-polloi. I was a cog moving in the mass with the pedestrian purpose of lunch. I was not set apart, as I usually am. I was one in a crowd, instead of gliding past them. And it was slow. Did I mention how slow it is?
I tried to read my poem. OK I actually memorized the first verse. I don’t love the poem either, but I do see the leaves coming into view Like something almost being said; And I appreciated that idea. I kept looking for the conversation I was missing as the leaves spoke. But this cold May, masquerading as November, chilled me to the bone.
I also overhear so many conversations on the sidewalk: the cell phones buzz, and people make deals or break hearts. On the bike there is ambient word noise, but I never walk in the watery wake of the cell phone motorboats. On the bike I do not trail in other people’s intimate details. I do not have to aggressively attempt to ignore what I didn’t want to hear in the first place.
On the bike I feel as if private places still exist, and they are wherever I take myself. The very public-ness of the streets creates a cocoon of quietude. But walking I am the same as everyone else. I suppose this begs the question: And why princess did you ever come to take on the exalted mantel nominating you as so damn different?
Perhaps it is the decades I spent riding around the city buffeted by my sense of speed, purpose and separateness. It felt as if I was carried aloft by this city and my bike. When I was in India I saw that so many people carried all their work, their huge catch of fish, their entire families and luggage on their bikes and I always thought: those are my people. And now I am on foot and feeling very put upon because of it.
I didn’t turn back in disgust and run to fetch my bike. I kept on walking, learning my poem and turning my attention to the article my daughter ripped out of Psychology Today called Walk This Way. In the short piece, Mina Shaghaghi explains that there is an actual science to walking. Funny, but I fight most things, which I believe are supposed to be natural. I have an aversion to having to learn something, which I believe should have come as factory installed.
But it turns out that walking, like breathing, is not quite as natural as we might think. The article gives things to focus on, think about:
*Keep your eyes forward, trained on a spot in front of you about 20 feet away. Keep your chin parallel to the ground to minimize the strain on your neck and back.
* To get perfect posture, OK as good as it gets, shrug your shoulders and let them fall to a comfortable position.
* It turns out that your arms deserve as much attention so your legs. Who knew? Arm speed determines leg speed. Bend your arms 90 degrees to create a pendulum motion as you speed up your step.
* You have to develop a rolling gate. Strike with the heel, roll through the step, and give a good push off with your back foot. To walk faster, I LOVE THIS, don’t lengthen your stride; rather, increase the number of small steps you take. (my walking guru Ria, swears by this advice, but she ups the ante by combining small steps with a clenched, let’s say tightened butt. She says her legs and behind are oh so much better for this tricky addition. Ria adds she likes doing this better when she can wear a coat which comes to mid-thigh length. Otherwise is in her words, “ It is kinda creepy.”
I want to confess that walking home, after the initial ugly spat in my head on the way over, was much easier. I was rolling, happy and quietly satisfied. I pushed off with my back foot; I reviewed the first verse of Trees and meandered through the second one. Perhaps it was the glass of wine at lunch, but walking home, the misty gray May day wrapping its unseasonable arms around me felt just fine. Sometimes I and I bet others need to stop fighting the inevitable and just do it. And do it until if feels natural.