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Scribblings 50: Welcome to My Walk

Nov 29, 2015

1024px-Abstract_-_Coconut_Leaf_(Imagicity_186)I am convinced that that there are more great restaurants in Pasadena than there are palm trees. And this is saying something, considering that so many palms were planted in the 1930s that Colorado Boulevard was nearly rechristened the “Street of a Thousand Palms.” Couple this with the facts that 1. my most recent visit took place during my birthday month and that 2. my friends are as generous as they are nice, and you might begin to suspect why I claim that, thanks to the City of Roses, my future as a Svelte Person is anything but rosy.

To quote a Dallas acquaintance, “Dang!”

No delicate rose was I, picking daintily at my salad-with-dressing-on-the-side. I was a dinnerplate dahlia. (Yes, there is such a genus.) I scraped my dinner – and lunch and breakfast – plates clean.

Indeed, I scraped those plates so clean that I felt more like a cocktail olive than any flower. I was pimento-ed with guilt, garlic-ed with queasiness, blue cheese-d with unhealthiness, jalapeno-ed with torpor. I was stuffed.

Then my daughter arrived with a slice of red velvet cake the size of a small car, and I didn’t want to hurt her feelings so I ate that whole thing, too.

At which point, I decided to go for a walk.

On walks what do you look at – other people, trees, buildings, birds, landscaping, the sky, approaching traffic? I look at those, too, but I am also a keen sidewalk-watcher.

 

sidewalk-crack-pasadena

 

For starters, I have to be. I’m a klutz, and many of Pasadena’s sidewalks are tricky.  They crack, they buckle. Mischievously they drop and lift. You’ve heard of caveat emptor? It’s caveat pedestrem in Pasadena. I once took a step and wound up with a cast for eight weeks and a fussy ankle forever.

Nevertheless I like sidewalks. Thanks to sidewalks, I am not forced to dodge traffic. (“Walk now, walk now,” signals helpfully bellow.) Nor need I apologize for inadvertently trespassing, trampling over someone’s fledgling winter rye, or giving a guard dog a seizure.

Sidewalks organize us, as the ancient Greeks, the inventors of sidewalks, recognized. We’re spoons in a drawer while autos are knives and buildings, forks. Yet we are one, too. We’re utensils; we share a commission to feed others. Community becomes more than a noun.

“We’re all in this together,” explains Philadelphia’s mayor, Michael Nutter. “When I shoveled the sidewalk my parents didn’t let me stop with our house. They told me to keep shoveling all the way to the corner.”

Or, as Ram Dass puts it, “We are all just walking each other home.”

And what a walk home it is! What shapes it can take! When I gaze at a city vista, what do I see? Ribbons of pavement. Ribbons that bind us as indissolubly as the cement sidewalks are made of.

Sometimes those ribbons weave a relatively straight path. I walk north, turn a 90-degree angle and get where I am going, whether it’s to the mall, a meeting, a deadline, or bolt-out-of-the-blue epiphany. Other times, the sidewalk and I meander. We may cut a diagonal, weave our way through an alley. The route is not so defined here, but that’s okay. As Joseph Campbell wrote, “If the path before you is clear, you’re probably on someone else’s.”

Perhaps this is why I love the other name for diagonal crosswalks, “pedestrian scramble.” We’re like Emily’s Breakfast at Green Street restaurant – a yummy sauté  of motives, dreams, neuroses and divine-dust scrambled this way for a bit, then that way. What we don’t do is act like a frittata and remain put; we move about the pan. Then it’s out of the frying pan on to whatever ‘plate’ life dishes up – even if we wind up scrambling yet again for cover.

Witness Wendell Berry’s The Real Work

 

It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,
and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.
The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.

 

The impeded stream…sings. In other words, we’re fat ladies in the opera. Nor is the show over yet; our tour has not ended. Quit sulking over that log or rock impeding your outflow! Your breath! Aim for high C.

 

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My road, I pray, will resemble the walkway in Pasadena’s Playhouse District – the one painted with roses. For starters, I love how Sufi mystics like Sadi often liken roses to a nightingale’s song. What better way to make crossings in life than to sing your way through them?

 

When the Nightingale sees the Rose,
It starts singing his joy;
But I am dazed and dumb in the presence of Thy vision.

–Sadi

 

Plus, traditionally, roses represent everything from love and joy to hope and enchantment. I wouldn’t say no to a bouquet of these. And guess what a bouquet of roses symbolizes? Gratitude.

Small wonder that, while Dallas is growing on me, I continue to call the City of Roses the City of My Heart. And yet it is my Dear Friend in Dallas, an avid cyclist, who reminds me of a very important fact as I make my journey. Always look forward, not over the cliff at your side. You go where you steer.  

Of course mountain bike paths often resemble my arthritic fingers. They head in one overall direction but veer and wig you out en route. “The path…is a spiral,” writer Barry H. Gillespie counsels us. “You continually come back to things you thought you understood and see deeper truths.”

 

~~~

 

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On walks, I gravitate to trees. Their beauty, strength and rootedness enthrall me. Their mechanics, however, propel me. “Tackle your own work!” they cry.

For trees shed more than leaves. Trees shed bark. Trees shed bark because trees grow. And, to grow further outward and skyward, they must break free of their former selves.

There’s no other route.

What part of yourself is too small for you? How are you being called, like the Incredible Hulk, to burst free of puny, pedestrian you and save, if not humankind, at least yourself?

Once upon a time, I was shedding some bark – or struggling to. Yes, no, yes, no, yes, no. Back and forth, up and down I bounced like an airsick toddler in a bounce house. Mommy, Daddy, HELP!

And that’s when I looked down at the sidewalk and saw it. A hair elastic.

At the time I didn’t think anything of it. But it was 1,000 degrees outside and my hair weighed a ton and, since the elastic wasn’t knotted or icky with God only knows what sort of jetsam, I slipped it on my arm just in case.

Down a street, up another…and there it was. A second hair elastic.

A half hour later, I knew there HAD to be some significance to the three hair elastics ringing my wrist.

“Okay,” I said to the Virgin Mary while I was at Mass later that day. “If I’m nuts thinking they’re from you – Mary, Undoer of Knots – make it clear.”

I went to my car, turned the key in the door, and looked down.

And, there, right at my feet, was a fourth elastic. More eerily yet, this one was blue, the exact blue Mary so often favors.

Elastics – always unknotted – continue to turn up. In an airport terminal at Love Field, when I wondered if a conference was worth it. (Yes.) In the garden, after I’d pulled back from a friendship. (Good decision.) After a gazillionth lecture from a relative that I’d ruined my life. (No, I didn’t.)

Yes, sometimes my faith leaves me as famished as I look weird to those of you who don’t share it…

Yes, too often sugar is my deity of choice. True devil’s food because sugar can no more fuel my growth than ginger ale can power my car, no more heal my wounds than a bandaid a decapitation, no more soothe my fears than this week’s wonder cream will banish my wrinkles.

My hair elastics, however…Ah, my hair elastics remind me that all is well even when all is not. And who knows? An answer may even present itself – perhaps as soon as tomorrow, perhaps not until many more tomorrows have passed.

In the meantime, there’s no point in getting in a knot about it.

 

 

350px-Hair_ties

 

Copyright © 2015 “Scribblings, Week 50: Welcome to My Walk” by Jenine Baines.

 

“Scribblings, Week 50: Welcome to My Walk” is part of a series of monthly nonfiction musings that Jenine Baines will be sharing with HP readers.

Enjoy more of Jeanine’s work in “Write Here”:
Scribblings, Week 45: Welcome to the Drought
Scribblings, Week 41: Welcome to the Langham
Scribblings, Week 39: Welcome to Boot Camp
Welcome to Pasadena, Where Everything Is Perfect
Scribblings: Week 25
Surrender
Scribblings: Week 15
Scribblings: Week 14
Scribblings: Week 13
The Rabbit in the Moon
Sorrow Tree
The Deflowering of Silence
The Morning the Egg ExplodedToo Beautiful
May I Have This Last Dance, Mr. Banana Nose?
Into the Bay Forever
No Two Blades of Grass
How Long Is Never?
Golf Course
Too Beautiful
Oh, to Sing

 

~~~

 

Photo, top right, palm fronds, by Graham Crumb/Imagicity.com [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

Photo, hair ties, by Alicia Fagerving (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

 

 




2 Responses for “Scribblings 50: Welcome to My Walk”

  1. Tim Callahan says:

    What is the location of the penultimate photo, the one with the leafy trees, the dirt walkway and the raised lawns behind low field stone retainers?

  2. Kat Ward says:

    I believe I took that picture on W. Montecito Ave., west of Auburn Ave. in Sierra Madre.

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