Growing up in the stale, uniformity of the suburbs, I always felt drawn to wild, open spaces. Rugged beaches, craggy forests, the vast expanse of the ocean, the peace of a river. I never imagined myself as much of a city girl. It just seemed too hard to connect, too easy to feel lost.
Then we moved to a small, gritty, funky urban neighborhood and something changed.
I stepped out my front door and started walking.
Not that I am by any means a walking novice (four years in the company of an energetic herding dog pretty much forces the issue), but this was different.
When the worn rubber of my floppy shoes hit the uneven pavement of my neighborhood streets it’s like an electric current runs all the way up through finger tips. Somewhere beneath my feet the city has a beat and I just have to join it.
I am connected to some feeling beyond myself; I am a part of the landscape in a way I have never felt away from unruly natural world. There’s a rhythm we all can’t help joining, an inescapable feeling of being a part. A part of something bigger than ourselves.
This is our neighborhood, our corner of the city, our little nook of the world. And that belonging is a powerful thing.
I’m not just walking past cute shops, local businesses and divey joints. These are my old brick buildings, my hole-in-the-wall ethnic takeout joint, my musty used book store, my pub packed with old friends and crowds seeking happier hours, my hipster coffee shop and Apple parking lot, my slippery wet pavement stones, my weather-beaten bus stop.
My neighbors and I don’t even have to really talk or say much of a hello. A quick nod here and there, a knowing smile or perhaps a shared moment is all we really need. We don’t even know each other though we often look familiar, but that doesn’t really matter.
Hustling by in a frenzied rush, plodding a long walk home, or just out for a little stroll, as we pass we share something infinitely small perhaps but also vastly warm.
They aren’t untamed beaches, vistas off a craggy mountainside or endless open fields, but somehow taking a stroll down my street takes me to that same sense of place. Small as it is in the big world.