The Laguna as seen from the bridge.
Our town offers a walking program on Saturday mornings once a month. Today we joined with about 40 other walkers on a photography walk that began in the center of town and moseyed through the industrial section and then through some of the neighborhoods.
We ambled almost three miles in three hours stopping frequently to capture pictures of interest. I took more than 50 photos while making a half a dozen new acquaintances and getting better acquainted with a number of people I've met before. Everyone seemed to have a wonderful time getting to know each other better and noticing beauty in places we ordinarily don't look for it.
Not surprisingly, we took photos of pretty things like roses growing along the sidewalks in a friend's front yard.
We photographed many metal sculptures, for our town has a lot of artists, especially ones who work in metal. This pelican was in the yard of one of our walkers named Walter. (I have another Walter friend now.)
We took photos of subjects we might ordinarily ignore like this graffiti message painted on a motor home:
When I see peeling paint, I usually think about how much work it would be to strip it all off and put the building in good repair. But today, I saw a leering dinosaur in there:
Rust is often beautful. We probably find rust beautiful because we've got iron rusting in our blood.
I cropped the photo below to serve as the banner background of this blog:
The best part of the walk for me was meeting new people. I spent about half the walk in the company of a little girl, Sarah P., who just turned five years old. It's easy for me, a kindergarten teacher, to strike up a conversation with five year olds. Within 60 seconds, we were deep in conversation about the importance of the final "h" in her name and how her friend, Hannah's name——which also has a final "h"——is a palindrome. She hadn't known that word before, but she understood the concept immediately and she is the kind of kid who would remember its definition upon her first encounter with it.
"You know," I said, "I think we ought to find a new name for palindromes. The word for a palindrome should itself be a palindrome, don't you think?"
She thought it over and decided that yes, I was right. "Then it would show what it means," she observed.
Just then, a look of alarm crossed her face. She looked up to her mother, who was walking with us, and asked, "Mom, I'm talking to a stranger! Is that O.K.?" (How sad, I think, that we've decided to teach our children to be so afraid of people! Most people I know——the vast, vast majority——are decent, loving, and trustworthy. It's a shame, I think, to give kids the impression that just about anyone they meet is likely to do them harm.)
"Sarah," I said. "I'm not a stranger. I'm married to the Mayor of this town, and I'm a kindergarten teacher. And I just met your mom on this walk. My name is Mr. Gurney."
"Yes, Sarah," her mother reassured her. "You may talk to him." And so we talked and walked, walked and talked. She knew the names of dozens of the flowers we passed. She shared her fresh and confident point of view with me, a willing and interested listener. She picked dandelion flowers for me, little gifts. I put their stems through the buttonholes of my shirt, little "Don't worry, Be Happy" buttons.
In the end, I came to feel we all need a lot more beauty and a lot more company in our lives. We need to learn to trust ourselves and to trust each other more.
Walking with our neighbors is a good beginning.