To See, Slow Down: Celebrating #Lifeat3MPH

To see and know a place is a contemplative act. It means emptying our minds and letting what is there, in all its multiplicity and endless variety, come in.
— Gretel Ehrlich, from "Landscape," in "Legacy of Light"
Copyright Darcy V. Kitching 2015

I kicked off this summer on the move. In June, I started leading two walks per week as a Walking Movement Leader for Boulder Walks and Walk2Connect, joined other organized walks in my city, and walked more than 40 miles with my son for the Hike it Baby 30 Challenge. Having just returned from spending the first two weeks of July in Canada, indulging in the slow pace of summer vacation, I'm easing back into the rhythm of walking near and far, exploring the world on foot.

The more I walk where I live, the more I value "Life@3MPH," and the more clearly I see everything around me. Walking invites me to engage with the environment and photograph evidence of community values. Artifacts of our collective aspirations, interests, fears, and traditions lie along every pathway and define every node. 

Case in point: on Thursday, while strolling to the rendezvous site for the fitness walk I lead in my neighborhood, I happened to pass a parked photo radar van just as a motorcyclist sped past it and triggered the flash camera. The fact that it wasn't ME getting that automatic ticket made me do a little happy dance ... because I've gotten snapped by that same blasted van in the past. The presence of photo radar machines exposes the city's interests in making streets safer by compelling motorists to slow down (there is an elementary school along this path), but it also evinces the many risks involved in driving. When I'm walking, I get to enjoy the fact that streets are multi-modal pathways, and I can participate in my community in ways I'd never get to if I were whizzing past in my auto-bubble.

Copyright Darcy V. Kitching 2015

Further along on my Thursday stroll, I greeted a lady named Jean who lovingly maintains the planted buffer strip between the sidewalk and the busy intersection where she lives, and she does it out of sheer goodwill. She plants and prunes and beautifies the area for the benefit of all walkers, because she enjoys gardening. The work she does helps make taking this route on foot a joyous experience, and I was glad for the chance to thank her.

"I wish that every body drove the cars less" - a tag hung from a wish tree in a north Boulder yard.

"I wish that every body drove the cars less" - a tag hung from a wish tree in a north Boulder yard.

On a recent ramble with Walk2Connect in a part of my city I don't know well, I got to experience another neighborhood's playful nature and delight in the kinds of details developed by residents who want to share their love of place. Along the way, we found a wish tree, on which one person pined for a less auto-oriented community, and a house with an artistic "wishing fence" that invited people to make their own secret wishes and stash them in jars and bottles.

We found tiny local gardens nestled along a hidden path between streets on a sloping hill, complete with benches to give people a place to enjoy what the community had made.

And we found more benches throughout the neighborhood, which indicated to me community values of kindness, love of nature and a slower pace of life. The benches - one installed by the neighborhood along a scenic street and one by the city along Boulder Creek - were well-placed under shade trees, facing views, inviting rest and contemplation.

Sometimes, we were reminded to slow down in a literal way ...

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and sometimes, natural elements gave us a more subtle guide to the benefits of going slowly by. We got to contemplate the patterns in Boulder Creek's whitewater rapids and took some moments to pause atop a mountain overlooking the city.

Whether discovering swings in someone's front yard, answering an invitation to add ideas to an evolving artwork, or strolling down colorful alleyways ...

... walking brings me closer to places and people and shows me how places inspire people to engage each other. It is my favorite mode of all for getting to know places near and far.

Celebrate Life@3MPH with me by supporting Walk2Connect on this, the penultimate day of its crowdfunding campaign, The Value of Walking Together. You can show off your love of taking life at a walking pace by chipping in $100 for a Colorado-made leather wristband, or pay $50 for a Walk2Connect membership and reap the benefits of connecting with other walkers around the Denver metro area and beyond.

The bracelet being offered for a $100 donation to The Value of Walking Together, made by Colorado's own Love Free Movement.

The bracelet being offered for a $100 donation to The Value of Walking Together, made by Colorado's own Love Free Movement.

Perhaps the band Poi Dog Pondering said it best when they sang about how "you get to know things better when they go by slow." Even 20 years after I first heard it, this song inspires me to get out and see by slowing down. Listen and enjoy!

Well the Ancient Egyptians, and the other Africans
The Mayans, the Incas, and all the Polynesians.
All around the world, a long long time ago,
People would walk, where ever they had to go.
They didn’t have car keys, and they didn’t have roads —
They didn’t have those ugly convenience stores, or Texacos
In fact, all around the world, a long long time ago,
people would walk, where ever they had to go.
Well now it’s the 1990’s, and the gasoline does flow,
but I still try and walk most of the places I have to go
But sometimes my friends will stop and say,
”Hey Frank! There’s a bus or a cab over there...
Why don’t we go ahead and get in it?”
But I say no, no, no, and didn’t you know,
you get to know things better when they go by slow.
— Poi Dog Pondering, "The Ancient Egyptians"