January 23, 2021
I’ve had a lot to reflect on lately, and find I need to be as active physically as I am mentally. My daily walks give me time to think and have the effect of wearing my worries away. Because of this need, my walks have continued apace despite the Wisconsin winter pressing in on all sides.
I walk the same path every day, south to north, before angling back southwest towards home. I cross the same intersections in the same way, as if following a scent trail. The snow is soft enough and my boots unique enough that I can make out the steps I took a day or two before. By the time I return home, I’m ready for the next thing — be it a work meeting or a nap. And no matter how cold and treacherous the walk, my apartment is always just the right temperature when I step back inside.
With a daily route come daily traditions. I know which parts of the trail have been plowed (not many) and which are still covered; I have a good idea of where I’ll encounter other walkers. At a section of the trail patrolled by a large, fearsome dog, I’ve learned to look ahead for canine shapes and re-route myself accordingly.
As I complete the first half of my loop, I always think back to past walks. When you visit the same place almost every day for ten months, during a global pandemic to boot, that place tends to build up memories. But there’s always a change as I leave the riverbank to start the last leg of my journey. Heading west into the setting sun, I inevitably start to think about what lies ahead. The memories are still there, but it’s as if I left my emotions by the water and am emerging into a new day.
I can’t say I’ve learned much about my town from these walks (except how many cars just drive into the city park and then leave for some reason). I have discovered plenty of phenomena related to snow, like the fact that heel prints are the first areas to melt on a well-trodden path. But mostly I’ve learned about myself and my figurative path. There’s enough novelty on each walk to keep me interested, but enough stays the same so that I’m comfortable thinking deeply.
I hope you can all get outside safely and find your path. Just be careful on the ice.