Baby steps. That’s my speed these days. I crutch around my neighborhood, going at a pace that makes me feel obliged to pull over for, well, pretty much anyone whose footfalls I hear coming up behind me. Whenever I have a destination in mind and a time frame to maintain, I calculate how long it used to take, and I double the expected minutes required to get from here to there. Seems prudent.
It’s how I roll, these days. But it’s not a new normal—it’s my rehab normal, which is shifting, day by day. I’ve already picked up the pace considerably from my first double-crutch-bound outing, down to the turnaround of our little dead end. As I gingerly made my way back up the street, I couldn’t help but realize that the last time I’d meandered in that direction, just for the sake of meandering, was at least fifteen years ago. Those days, I would have been accompanied by one or both of my then small boys, for splashing through puddles in springtime or collecting locust tree pods in the fall, or to take their bikes or skate boards or roller blades out for a spin. Living just off a dead end provided a perfect venue for children in need of a quiet patch of asphalt to practice their various transportation skills. And now, here I am again, crutching along on the next leg of some generational relay, where the feeble elders retrace the paths worn by the children not so very long ago. Making my way along paths that will no doubt be retraced by grandchildren, years hence.
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The Go Slow program would seem to be a little bit boring, by definition. Since I can’t drive, I can only get so far. I’m not quite ready to hop on a bus or grab a cab. So my options, while expanding as my loops get longer, are still well-trod local territory.
And yet…how is it that this version of slowing down, this no-kids, just me going slow on these familiar routes, has turned into a new and heightened sense of awareness of my surroundings? Is it leafless spring, shining brighter on the flora and fauna as I pass by at a snail’s pace? Is it me wearing my glasses, which provide me with both farsightedness and up-close clarity simultaneously? Is it just a function of going slower and paying better attention?
Some of all three, maybe. Here’s just a handful of the things I’ve discovered as I’ve crutched around my environs:
Fire hydrants. Who ever knew that fire hydrants proudly proclaim their place of birth? I happened to notice one that announced its production in Elmira NY, which is the home town of a friend of mine. I wanted to take a picture for her, but there was someone sitting in a car nearby, and it felt a little weird. So I continued down the street, sure that the next hydrant would fill the bill. Well, it did, but this one was from Albertville AL. Wait, what? My first thought was that I only knew of the Albertville of Olympic fame in France. Now I was curious. What else did I find?
Okay, this shot I took because I’m collecting visuals of front yard fences. Our row of yews took a beating this winter, and I’m tired of picking people’s garbage out of the branches. But looky looky, that’s an Elmira NY hydrant, bless my soul!
This is the front walk to a house where William James, for whom the big ugly 15 story social sciences building down the street was named, lived for a time in the 1870s. The front step clearly dates back to 1876. What I love is the tiny little bit of cement that was applied when the new brick sidewalk was recently installed, where the current owners and children got to memorialize their own years here. On the left side, Cameron and Casey.
I’ve also loved this Chinese dragon, one of a pair that guard the entrance to Harvard’s Yenching Library, for ages and ages. My kids loved rolling that marble ball around, always angling for a way to get it out. Not without removing those fangs!
Going slow means making time to stop and truly admire the things you already know you love. I worship Harvard Yard’s dawn redwoods, quite literally when I go to the morning chapel service and spend my time admiring them through the big Palladian window. This first burst of green took me by surprise, and the light insisted that I stop and take it in, up close.
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So, huzzah for the little details that go missing when we whiz by, distractedly. And hooray for excuses to employ the Go Slow program, to refocus our view of the world to connect to life’s little wonderments. Here’s hoping my heightened vision with live on, when I’m back to my regular pace.