eternal sunshine of the spokane mind

The art of walking with nowhere to go and nothing to see, perfected.

“Want to go for a walk?” I’ve found myself asking this question more and more frequently in the past week – to my roommate, my cat, myself, anyone who will listen, really. I’m not sure what it is about it, but there is something refreshing about taking time out of a day crammed with homework, classes and other nonsense worries and just ambling about with nothing in particular to discuss and nowhere in particular to go.

It is here that I find myself, in the middle of a walk on the Centennial Trail with my housemate beside me, my hands bunched up in my pockets and my shoulders shooting up to protect my neck from the cold front. But somehow, the cold does not really matter after a couple of minutes and I find myself blissfully and slowly making my way forward, nodding at strangers, gazing into the cascading river waters and placidly discussing the oddities and singularities of life as a student, as a senior, as those who aren’t quite sure what life after May is going to look like.

Along the way, I see other people walking (usually matronly couples about 50 years my senior), more dedicated people running, either in packs or alone, businesspeople taking a lunchtime stroll, discussing strategy and office gossip, an elderly man walking an absurdly tiny dog in a pink sweater, a solo walker who appears to be lost in a daydream or else solving an impossible mathematical equation in her head. There are couples and big groups and families and people who are walking alone. Some of them smile, others just look and most keep staring at the concrete folding out in front of them.

As I’m rounding the carousel, I can’t help but think of the story that each of these people carries with them, each a swirl of humanity captured in one smile or frown or pair of averted eyes. The merry-go-round spins and echoes of screaming laughter permeate the grey quarters of Spokane in January. I look over and the laughter turns the corners of my lips up into a smile, it does the same to my housemate, a smile and a laugh joining the echoes. The man with his tiny dog smiles too. The couple with their heads together, whispering a rushed and urgent conversation, turn their heads toward the carousel and crease their foreheads at the sound.

A brief moment: a smile, a laugh and a frown. We don’t know if it means anything at all, but we spend the rest of our walk discussing the events of our walk as though it was a delicately directed scene from a film. But that was exactly the irony of it – we can find definite meaning and underlying themes in a movie scene because it is scripted, written, acted, vetted, edited and screened to an audience. And critics and audience members alike get to pick it over until there is nothing left but a clean list of themes, scenes, lines and Academy snubs.

Life, however, is exactly the opposite – a chaotic crashing of moments, stitched together to make sense of unscripted, unedited, unscreened events. Nothing happens because a director off-screen calls, “Action!” or “Cut!” Stuff happens because I decided to get out of bed this morning, put on some warm clothes and go for a walk. And it seems a lot of other people decided to do that too. And together, our decisions created the crashes, the clashes, the stitches that comprise what we call a day.

My friend and I reach the end of the loop, still pouring over the stitches of our day. We decide that we need another go around to fully make sense of it all. We have nowhere to go, nothing to do and nothing, really, to talk about, so we keep walking and walking, our minds on the lives we’re living instead of the pile of homework and unread books at home. As it should be.

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