Pedestrian Life

Carolyn and I were looking out the living room window yesterday. We were watching El Niño. At least, we were watching it as much as anyone can watch a complicated seasonal weather event triggered by changes in ocean temperatures thousands of miles away. I'm sure it does no good to anthropomorphize the weather. Still, the amount of water coming down reminded me of teams dumping a large cooler of Gatorade on a coach after a Super Bowl win so I took some comfort in seeing the weather as some guy who just showed up with an unbelievable amount of water and wind and a need to celebrate.

We were trying to think of something to do. None of our cats have hats and even if they did, we've kind of aged out of the Dr Seuss demographic's measure of fun. We drew a total blank. In a way it was a relief. Sort of "Oh, you feel that way too. Thank God, I thought it was just me!" So our inability to figure out something interesting to do on one of the rare weekends when we have two days off together became sort of interesting in itself.  What did we do before? How could we be bored in the heart of Oregon wine country with all the recreational options it has to offer? I suggested that we'd just gotten bored with the place. The same thing happened in Portland. We just stopped using the city and the idea of living in the country took over our perception of home and where we wanted to be.

I think that's partly true but Carolyn suggested "we lost our pedestrian life.  We lost it in Portland when we started commuting 3 hours a day and we never really had one here."  I had never thought of that before but it's really true.

I suppose a pedestrian life can be described in a few ways. It's living in a place where you can actually walk around to do things. It's having the space in your life to actually take that walk.  It's also living in a place that has spaces that allow for that movement. When we lived in Portland we had the physical space and the ability, we lost the space in our life when we started driving so much to get to work.

So we left it and came here. It made sense and it's been a fantastic adventure. I've lived in this house longer than any other home in my life. Carolyn and I have shaped this place and it is our home. It's beautiful here and it would sound self-pitying to say there's no place to walk here except that there isn't. Or maybe it's more appropriate to say there's no place to walk to. We walk down Finn road sometimes and pick up trash on the shoulder. But we always turn around and walk home. There's no park, no store, no bus stop, no community center. There's no destination to walk to,  it's the country. There's no space allotted for pedestrian life beyond what we make on our property. Finn Rd has a sort of role that way. Bikes, cars, logging trucks, horses, a few walkers and runners traverse its one mile length and none seem out of place. Dirt roads slow things down to a place where we coexist a bit better.

But there are very few places here where you are expected to share space with others unless those others happen to be in cars. Since most Americans understand cars as an extension of themselves, that doesn't seem to be a huge problem for them. I don't think that's ever been us. I didn't own a car until my 40s. But in the end, we got in our car that's not an extension of ourselves and drove to Amity for lunch. We weaved our way there on back roads, swerving around orange safety cones marking places where high water had closed a lane.

We didn't walk much at The Blue Goat Cafe either. But the food was good and being in the company of strangers enjoying their meals as much as we were was fine consolation for not living in a high density, walkable mixed used neighborhood close to our work.

We couldn't afford to live their anyway.


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