Observations of a Walk Between Home and Work
These descriptions are presented in the order they are discussed in the accompanying text.
Observations Relating to Body-Subject and Perceptual Field
1. To get to my office, I approach my university building’s east wing, forgetting that my office has been moved to the building’s west wing and that I should be accessing entry from the building’s west entry (Tuesday, June 2, 2015).
2. I made my usual right turn toward the alumni center, but the sidewalk is blocked because of construction. A sign reads, “Detour – pass through the alumni center.” I become annoyed because I must go out of my way. So much campus construction right now! (Monday, August 24, 2015).
3. It has snowed several inches this afternoon, and the sidewalks are high with snow so I walk in the streets, which have been cleared. I notice ahead that two cars are stopped in the street. I’m annoyed because I must move from the street back into the sidewalk, choked with snow. Why are these drivers stopping their cars in the street? I realize that one party is dropping someone off, and the other party is parallel parking but not doing it very well. Perhaps the poor visibility as the snow continues to fall? (Monday, February 2, 2015).
4. I’m headed home and discover, during the day, that construction workers have erected a chain-link fence around the east portion of the old stadium right up to the street curb on 17th Street. This fence blocks the sidewalk I usually walk home along, and I note myself quite annoyed that I must work out a new route. I quickly decide to use the sidewalk I traverse to get to the old-stadium parking lot when I drive my car to work. There is a good amount of irritation that I must change my usual route (Wednesday, February 11, 2015).
5. There is some sort of accident on Denison tonight, and the police won’t let anyone pass. I note annoyance and quickly thinking out an alternative route to get myself home. Rapidly, I picture turning left and walking down 17th Street to Poyntz Avenue, then up Poyntz to my street (Tuesday, February 3, 2015).
6. I note my shoe is untied. I look for a “platform” on which to rest my foot while I re-tie the shoelace. There is nothing immediately available. I see ahead the stair leading to the natatorium. I walk to the stair and retie my shoe (Friday, March 26, 2015).
7. It’s a chilly October day and, as I walk to school, I find myself using the stretches of sidewalk that are in the sun. I should have worn a jacket! (Thursday, October, 15, 2015).
8. Today is extremely hot and humid. The sun is fierce, and I do everything I can to stay in the shade. Thank goodness there are trees along much of my route and they shade the sidewalk (Wednesday, August 19, 2015).
9. More construction fencing! I’ve come too far to turn around, so I look for an alternative way through. I find myself automatically pointing my body toward a space in the hedgerow separating parking lot from lawn. I expect we’re not supposed to walk through this space, but I am able to get through and continue on my way (Monday, July 20, 2015).
10. It’s late and I’m walking home in the dark. I have my ipod on and am listening to Peter Gabriel’s “Solsbury Hill,” which syncs so well with my footsteps. I do a kind of dance as I walk, swinging arms from side to side. What the heck? It’s dark and no one can see! (Monday, March 26, 2016).
11. Listening on the ipod to Don Henley’s “The End of the Innocence.” I’m having trouble finding a walking rhythm. Ah, yes, I have it: the song requires short steps and a slight lift in the knee. Such a pleasure to “walk dance” in rhythm with a fine song! (Tuesday, May 12, 2015).
12. As I walk home tonight, I am caught in a sudden spring rainstorm. The sidewalks and streets are suddenly awash in water. I am struck by how my eyes pay attention to the water puddles that my feet jump over as my hand adroitly repositions my umbrella at the angle most effective for deflecting the pelting rain. I feel wetness as water splatters my ankles and hear and smell the rain as it strikes the earth. I observe how my attention continuously shifts in an automatic way, immediately aware of the next water puddle I must move around or the sudden awareness that my left shoe is soaked because I gauge the flow of water along the street as shallower than it actually is. There is a moment when I notice daffodils blooming along a picket fence I always walk by. I notice a pedestrian running up the street for the cover of his parked car. So much happening in such an ordinary event! There is a moment when I notice daffodils blooming along a picket fence I always walk by, and another moment when I notice a pedestrian running up the street for the cover of his parked car. So much happening in such an ordinary event! (April 16, 2015).
Observations Relating to Intercorporeal Presence
13. A young woman exits the natatorium and walks directly in front of me along the sidewalk. To make some distance between us, I walk perpendicular to her direction of movement and then meander a bit to make more space. I note how I feel uncomfortable when a person I don’t know is too close (Monday, March 21, 2016).
14. There’s a group of five male college students crossing the street in front of me, and I take my time so there is some space between them and me (Thursday, October 15, 2016).
15. I’m walking to school and see a class of school children turn the corner onto Denison. I slow my pace so I will have some space. I don’t fancy being right behind noisy, unruly kids. At the stoplight at Denison and Anderson, I wait a bit so there is even more space between them and me (Monday, July 20, 2016).
16. There is an unkempt man coming toward me on the sidewalk. I note a mild feeling of discomfort with the encounter to come. We pass, acknowledge each other with a hello, and continue on our way (Tuesday, March 29, 2016).
17. I’m walking down the hill from my house and a cyclist speeds by, almost brushing me. Annoyance and anger – that someone would be so thoughtless as to ride so close to a pedestrian. What if I had suddenly veered left to avoid something on the pavement? It’s a steep hill. He’s going too fast! (Friday, April 1, 2016).
18. It’s graduation day, and there are some street parties in the houses I walk by. There are two young men standing in “my” sidewalk. An inner voice says, “You’re in my space, get out of the way.” They sense my approach and sidle aside to the adjacent lawn. I note they do not look at me directly but sense my movement in their peripheral vision (Saturday, May 16, 2015).
19. A driver doesn’t have his signal on at the intersection of Delaware and Poyntz, so I assume he’s continuing straight ahead. I start to cross the street, but he turns in front of me. I stop and wait for him to pass. What a jerk! (Monday, August 21, 2016).
20. I’m crossing Anderson with the walk light for pedestrians. A truck speeds to the intersection and turns left, cutting in front of me even though I have the right of way. I swear and say, “Damn drivers!” (Friday, February 13, 2015).
21. I’m walking to school and, from the other direction, a young woman driving a large SUV turns into her apartment drive that crosses my sidewalk. I’ve already noticed that she hasn’t signaled, and now she cuts in front of me, striking a large pothole full of water that splashes toward me. There is a quick emotional flash: “I hope I don’t get wet!” I’m angry because she didn’t signal, she cut in front of me, and almost covered me with water. I swear and ponder how stupid people can be (Monday, August 22, 2016).
22. As I walk home, I see lovers saying goodbye at their car door. I walk by the car and turn my head and attention away, projecting a sense of “not being there” so as not to interfere with the privacy of their moment together (Tuesday, May 26, 2015).
23. Walking home on Denison, I see a couple with their two dogs approaching me on the sidewalk. I move into the street just in case my presence might upset the canines. No need to excite excitable dogs! (Monday, March 28, 2016).
24. I’m crossing Anderson toward the university and a big yellow school bus is in the right turning lane. I enter the crosswalk and wonder if the driver will stay stopped or attempt to move right before I get to that side of the street. I note he remains stopped, and I wave my hand in thanks for his giving me the right of way (Friday, February 6, 2015).
25. I’m headed home and approach a young father and son out for a walk. I say hello, and they both say hello in turn. I think it’s good that the dad acknowledges a passerby and sets a good example for his son (Wednesday, May 27, 2015).
26. I’m walking to work, and a young father and son move toward me on Denison. I say hello but receive no acknowledgement. The father scowls. Seems a poor way to introduce a child to his neighbors and the public realm (Thursday, March 19, 2015).
27. An acquaintance is doing yardwork as I pass, and we discuss the new plants and shrubs he’s using as ground cover for a replaced sewage line. Some of these plantings I need to try in my front lawn. We converse for about 10 min, but I must get home to make dinner (Wednesday, July 13, 2016).
28. I’m walking down my hill and approaching Poyntz. Across the street, a scruffy, bearded man waves his arms at me, but I can’t hear what he’s saying. At first I think he’s a homeless panhandler, but, as I get closer, I realize he’s asking me the location of the nearest Burger King eatery. I give him directions and he tells me he’s visiting his mother-in-law and doesn’t know the city. I feel relieved that I can help him so easily. I was not in the mood to deal with a homeless person this morning (Wednesday, May 13, 2015).
29. I notice that the woman who lives in the house where the old gray cat used to live is trimming weeds. I call out to ask her what happened to the cat, which I would say hello to each day as I walked by. He was very old and had a hard life until this kind-hearted lady took him in. She explains that he died on July 4th and that she buried him in the back yard. I relate to her how he was an important “event” when I would walk by. He conveyed so much suffering and hurt. I felt sad as I continued on (Monday, July 29, 2016).
Observations Relating to Place Encounter
30. I’m walking down the hill from my house. In the distance, I see near the right curb a gray-brown, baglike form that looks like a bird. I come closer and realize the “bird” is a twisted piece of tree branch wrapped in dead leaves. I feel relieved. Not another “road kill.” I continue walking (Friday, December 12, 2014).
31. I’m walking home on Denison and suddenly see in my peripheral vision something hanging between two trees that looks like a large blanket. I look more carefully and realize that a man has put up a hammock in which he is resting. He looks asleep (Thursday, May 12, 2015).
32. I’m walking along a stone wall in front of a house on Denison. I spy on the wall a blue notebook that seems so out of place, especially since it looks like it will be raining soon. I think about moving the notebook to the front porch of the house but don’t. Who knows who it belongs to?! (Monday, December 15, 2014).
33. I walk by a hillside that is usually covered with wildflowers this time of year, but this spring the owner has cultivated and reseeded the hillside, which is now mostly bare earth. I miss the flowers. They were a pleasure to look at (Wednesday, April 20, 2016).
34. I’m walking down Denison near Poyntz and see, on the opposite side of the street, two adults and three kids – a family. It’s about 9:30 am and this group seems out of place. They cross Poyntz, and I realize they are going into the Catholic Church for a service – it’s “Good Friday.” They must have parked their car on one of the side streets and are walking the rest of the way to the church (Friday, March 25, 2016).
35. A mailbox of a house on North Delaware is open. I close it. I hope someone else would do the same for me (Monday, March 28, 2016).
36. There is a large rusted bolt in the middle of Poyntz. Cars might strike it so I pick it up and move it to the far curb (Wednesday, January 14, 2015).
37. There has been a strong wind this morning. On the Denison sidewalk, I encounter a fallen tree branch blocking the right of way. I move the branch to the adjacent lawn. It would be an obstacle for children walking this way (Tuesday, March 24, 2015).
38. As I walk to work, I see a dead squirrel at the bottom of the hill. Poor creature. Why can’t drivers slow down? (Monday, March 16, 2016).
39. I walk down Leavenworth and past a dilapidated house in front of which an unhappy puppy has been chained the last few days. I remember to check on him because I am concerned about his wellbeing, but I see he is not there. I feel concern because he looked so dispirited and uncared for. I wonder what’s happened to him? (Friday, March 25, 2016).
40. As I enter campus, I see, on the stone wall next to the sidewalk, a handsomely crafted, miniature snow man with bottle-cap eyes. He really is beautifully made, and I feel a sense of joy that someone would take so much care in making such a transient object (Tuesday, January 19, 2016).
41. I walk down my hill on an unseasonably warm February day and am surprised to see, in the open space with trees, a person sitting on a blanket with a bike propped up nearby. It is a lovely afternoon – at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit – so it makes sense one would wish to be reading outside in the sun under a tree. But I’ve never before seen anyone use the space this way. I wonder who this person is? Rather mysterious! (Friday, February 6, 2015).
42. I’m walking to school. Someone calls my name, but I don’t recognize him because he’s on a bike and wears sunglasses. I ask, “Who is it?” and he answers “Jeff.” I realize it’s my neighbor, but he seems “out of place” with the bike and sunglasses (Monday, July 6, 2015).
43. I return home and note how different my house and front yard look. Yesterday there was a fierce thunderstorm, and the old maple tree near the entry of my house was blown over. The yard looks barren without the tree, and the aesthetic sense of my property is not the same. I’ll need to plant a new tree! (Thursday, September 10, 2015).
44. I’m listening on my ipod to Eliza Gilkyson’s “Requiem.” Its beautiful melody and haunting lyrics trigger my looking at the flower-covered hillside, the loveliness of which merges with the poignancy of the song. So many yellow daisies and purple Echinacea flowers! A great sense of hope and compassion. The world can be a good place! (Wednesday, July 22, 2015).
45. There is much construction on campus this summer, and a detour requires that I leave my usual sidewalk, cut across a parking lot, and use a stretch of sidewalk I’ve never traversed before. I am immediately touched by the atmosphere and mood of this path, which is tree-lined and shaded. This stretch of sidewalk is no more than 200 ft., but it has a strong sense of place. It is the trees that make this place special. There are many and one moves through a tree-canopied enclosure. The sidewalk meanders through the trees. The overall feeling is pleasant, comfortable, reassuring – quite wonderful! (Monday, July 20, 2015).
46. I’m walking down the hill of Leavenworth and note a boy in an orange shirt resting against the anchoring post of the stonewall at the corner. A young woman with a tiny terrier walks up Denison on the other side of that street. A blue truck stops at the corner, and the boy runs across the street to the truck. He must have been waiting for a ride. A car coming down Denison slows for the stopped truck. The boy gets in and the vehicle speeds away. I see irritation on the face of the driver, who obviously is not pleased that she’s had to wait for the truck. The girl with the dog crosses Leavenworth and heads north on Denison. Odd how all these folks converge at that one corner and then disperse.