Saturday, April 17, 2010

Reflections on Walking

 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.

23 comments:

Delwyn said...

Hi Dan

maybe one day I will get to walk on your walks with you. Your conversations sounded delightful...

'Walters' must be right for you...

happy days

Alden Smith said...

Dan, I like the photograph of T-Rex, he must have been old, I can't see any teeth. I like the "non chocolate box" photographs you took. They show that just about everything around us has its own kind of beauty and visual interest.

Bonnie, Original Art Studio said...

Life as it is meant to be - enjoyed with gratitude and presence. So much out there waiting to be discovered and appreciated. You certainly have a winning way with the little ones. (I'm a little one at heart ;)

Paul C said...

Your shots are so beautiful, vibrant with rich colour. Just like life. I also like your new banner which relays your theme so well.

jinksy said...

The first rust photo is a work of art, just as it stands...absolutely glorious.

C.M. Jackson said...

beautiful shots and sounds like a wonderful walk-I agree more community is a good thing--great post!

Friko said...

I'd love to go for a ramble with you, walk and talk, walk and talk, look and see and admire and explore, and I am many times 5 years old.

steven said...

dan i really enjoyed this walk with you and your eye was roving far and wide. i am delighted with the rusting flaking photos of course. walter. my name friend appears to be peter. steven

Dave King said...

Obviously a very stimulating walk - the post was equally so.

The Pollinatrix said...

Delightful.

I love the rust photo, and the cropped version. Isn't it fun editing photos?

My two-year-old has been picking a lot of dandelions for me lately. They're the best flower on earth when that happens.

Reya Mellicker said...

I definitely see the dinosaur and I, too, appreciate the texture of crumbling paint and rust. There is beauty in so many things!

Eugene Robinson, a great writer for the Washington Post, wrote about trust in this morning's paper. Very thought provoking.

Your walk seems like it was wonderful. Bravo!

Dan Gurney said...

Delwyn, seriously, if your travels ever bring you to the Golden State, I hope that you and Jim will look us up. We can, the four of us, go for a walk.

Dan Gurney said...

Pal, you hit on exactly what I thought was so remarkable about the walk: there is beauty literally everywhere you look. It's rather astonishing really. The photos I like best were taken in the parts of town I would never ever think to look for beauty!

Dan Gurney said...

Hey, Bonnie, why don't you come and be part of my kindergarten. Oh, it would be fun.

Dan Gurney said...

thank you Paul. I have a history of changing the banner photo quite regularly, but for now, it's the theme of the day.

Dan Gurney said...

Jinksy, I'm not normally drawn to abstract art at all, but especially with photography, I can see I'm growing. I actually am drawn to abstract images like the rust photo. I love it when I sort of expand outside my old selves.

Dan Gurney said...

CM, you picked up on what I really felt at the end of the walk: that what Americans are starving starving for is community. Man, we need it badly!!

Dan Gurney said...

Friko, like I said to Delwyn, we can go for a walk. I don't travel much, but lots of people who I know do. If you ever come to California......

Dan Gurney said...

steven... peter, and dan, too, I hope. I feel like I've added steven to my list.

Dan Gurney said...

Dave, thank you. I am glad that you found the post stimulating. The walk was enjoyable, that's for sure.

Dan Gurney said...

Polli, yes, yes! The best flowers are gift blossoms from children. No doubt about that. I actually get quite a few, and it always fills me with a rush of joy.

Dan Gurney said...

Reya, thank you. I'll bet you would have taken some prize winners had you been able to join us. I know you love both walking, shutterbugging, and photo-editing, so you'd have had a blast. And we'd have enjoyed each other's company, i'm sure.

Lori ann said...

Dan, this was such an enjoyable post, the idea of walking with neighbors, learning and seeing together sounds like a great idea. You hit on one of the reasons i have always loved photography so much, it gives us new eyes. There most certainly is beauty everywhere, one only has to slow down and look, having a camera is fantastic for that. When my children were small and we'd take a trip i always gave them a disposible camera to record what they saw. I still have images they produced that i love. What they saw. Beauty found everywhere.
I understand what you are saying regarding trust and our children and i believe that the majority of people in the world are as you said decent, loving and trustworty. But some are not. I can't tell so how can we teach our children? I suffered abuse by a trusted adult as a child.