Keeping in Step

We have had something of a roller coaster ride for weather in southwestern Ontario these last weeks. Record colds followed by record warms followed by snow followed by rain and then back into the deep freeze again. Add an ice storm, stir, and presto! You have a mess for commuters.

I am a commuter, but I try to commute by car as little as possible. There are days when work demands I drive, but otherwise, my goal is to ride a bus in the morning and walk home. This last week, on one of my bus days I bumped into my neighbour at the bus stop and we chatted all the way to work, catching up on family, and work, and holiday news. He is planning a trip to Holland in April, and so I had opportunity to experience tulips avant le temps vicariously.

While walking through downtown Kitchener on the way home a week ago last Friday, I unexpectedly bumped into a friend I see from time to time at First Nations events. We stopped and chatted for a time, and then as I began to walk, she wandered along with me. Eventually our paths reached the point wherein they were to part, but we both stood and visited, watching the walk light change to stop and back to walk again, and around and around a number of times.

These are the delights of my daily commute. These are the treasures a car doesn’t afford me on those days demanding auto-mobility. Strange, that phrase “automobile.” To be mobile is to be on the move, and the word “auto” comes to us from Greek and means “self.” I’m really only auto-mobile on my feet. In the car I’m really rather car-mobile. But even on those days leaving me to be truly auto-mobile, the friends I meet, the buildings that pull my eye up and out, the sky that stops me in my tracks, the trees that wave; all of these sojourners with me remind me that I never walk alone. I never truly walk auto.

The bible speaks of a cloud of witnesses cheering us on in our life of faith. We Christians tend to imagine that cloud to consist of those who have passed on in the faith – and for good purpose. I suspect that this is precisely what the author of the book of Hebrews had in mind.

All the same, I have to say that these chance encounters with the many “characters” that constitute the narrative of the street often cheer me along. In sum, I am never auto-mobile, nor do I find myself to be on “auto-pilot.” Others cheer, and this carriage I call me-in-my-entirety is driven by forces beyond my control even while I take control.

All in all, it is a gift to walk; it is a gift to wonder while on feet. I find that it doesn’t take too many steps for the cares of the day to wear away and creativity to come, and then, when I have ears to hear, cheers erupt from glistening frost, from crunching snow, from traffic signal parting the stream of traffic. Some of us have to drive, that I know, but hopefully even such as these can find a way to take a breath before and after and even in the midst of the day’s commute.

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14 thoughts on “Keeping in Step

  1. Marie Taylor says:

    So true. Walking is like a breath of fresh air bringing sanity.

    • agjorgenson says:

      Yes, that is an apt comparison, especially in that breathing is pretty fundamental business, and I remain convinced that walking (or any sort of movement for those who cannot) is absolutely critical to a life lived well.

  2. M.J. Perry says:

    I love taking transit and walking when I go downtown to teach my class, or for any other reason. On the street car I have been sung to by preschoolers, told wild stories by those whose reality is a little different than my own, and also run into friends.

    I have also seen parts of my city that I would not have been able to see had I been having to ensure I did not hit anyone else and they did not hit me. I have been able to explore different routes and spend time looking in windows–rather than searching for a place to park.

    It’s a lovely way to travel, and when I get off the streetcar in the evening, or walk home from downtown, before I walk up the hill I go into my favourite coffee shop, and on a chilly winter evening it’s full of good smells, good friends, good laughter and good warmth.

    • agjorgenson says:

      Thanks for commenting MJ. I used to read all the time on the bus, but lately have been taking time just to be, and find it rich. Glad to hear you know so well the gift of leaving the car behind.

  3. jannatwrites says:

    I do think these chance encounters do serve to cheer us on. How nice that your commute affords the ability to see people you wouldn’t have otherwise bumped into.

    When I lived in Phoenix, I tried the public transit, but my work was too far away (it took over an hour and a half to travel the 30 miles to work.)

    • agjorgenson says:

      An hour and half is a long time. Transit isn’t always an option. My strategy is to try to travel in a way that is as relaxing as possible. There was a time when i had to drive to work, and I would strategically go on certain side roads that kept my blood pressure down!

  4. diannegray says:

    I absolutely love walking. It’s gives me time to reflect on my live and appreciate this magnificent world 😉

  5. shoreacres says:

    While walking to work is an impossibility for me – tools to haul, multiple job sites in a day and so on – there’s an analogy that helps me understand your response.

    When I travel now – for a weekend or a week, or for a trip like last October’s – I always go by car. I’ve made a decision that my travel will be “local”. That is, no more Paris or London, no longing for Buenos Aires. Paris, Texas? Fine. Hugo, Oklahoma? Great. The primary reason is that I want to poke and linger and chat along the way – just as you do on your commute to work.

    What good does it do to have a cloud of witnesses, if all they can do is point to a plane passing overhead and think, “There goes someone”?

    • agjorgenson says:

      We have a Paris, Ontario… and our town used to be Berlin, and is just north of Cambridge etc. Yes, I like what you say. Walking won’t work for all, but hopefully all of us can find the changes we need to insert a little bit of sanity back into life. Sounds like you found exactly that Linda!

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