ears ago, when I lived in San Francisco, I was talking to someone about how much I loved walking around the city. “But walking around by yourself sounds so lonely,” came the reply.
It wasn’t. I found walking helped me bond with the people and the places I saw along the way. When I was driving or on a bus, I could never see things in the same way. The details of the life around me would go by in a blur. Walking let me stop and give a storefront my full attention. I could go inside if I wanted. I could touch and feel. The same went for flowers. I could meet someone and say hello or begin a conversation.
I didn’t need to put music in my ears or listen to anything else to keep me going. The city was entertaining enough. There, unlike in Los Angeles, my home, people actually walked regularly. I admit I sometimes saw people I had no wish to make eye contact with. But overall the benefits were great, so I kept on walking.
Things have been a bit different the last few years. I am now back in Los Angeles. When I’d go out walking on weekdays I’d rarely see a soul, aside from someone walking their dog or pushing a baby carriage. Usually, though, it was just me and the open sidewalk.
This is LA, after all. People drive to get places only half -a-mile away. And almost no one walks just for the pleasure of it.
I live in an apartment with no balcony and no backyard. Walking helps me fend off that boxed-in feeling.
A major break from my status as the Walking Queen of West LA came just the other day, on Saturday. My neighborhood has a large observant Jewish community. Saturday is the Sabbath, the day of rest.
On that day, it suddenly felt like everyone was walking everywhere. Since I have many friends in the community, I simply added my walking to theirs. Saturday made everything come alive, which I relished everything about in a different way than I did my solitary outings.
I’ve been living here now for six years and my Saturday walks took on a life of their own. And then came the pandemic.
The mayor advised everyone to stay home, a line a lot of people have been hearing in recent weeks. But, we could still go outside. Biking and walking weren’t off limits.
So you can imagine the amazing transformation occurring before my very eyes. Los Angeles is hitting the pavement every single day. Streets are so crowded and foot traffic so congested that I feel overwhelmed, if not wistful.
What happened to my nice, quiet weekday walks? How do you breathe let alone feel at peace in crowds? Not to mention that they were attempting conversations while six-feet away from each other.
Ridiculous, I told myself, and it was beginning to get on my nerves.
All the big hiking trails were closed, and the beaches as well. So much for long seafront walks and chitchats with wildlife. To find an unencumbered place to walk I soon realized I’d need to do some legwork (pun intended).
So I asked a journalist friend who knows the city well. Where could I go that was more or less nearby?
He suggested two places. One I knew and had been to, a playground. But across from it was a section of the park including a garden and a small track. Seven times around the track was equal to one mile. I drove over and was amazed that I’d missed this place for so many years. How was that possible? Such pretty greenery, and even a serene fountain and rock sculpture at the center. In the sunlight of a spring afternoon, all around me glowed. And no crowd.
It wasn’t empty but everyone seemed to have more than enough space. I walked around, taking pictures, and left with a big smile on my face.
The second spot suggested by my friend was a golf course with a dirt path. What I didn’t know was that the path extended around the course for a full two miles, almost a hike. There’s also a flat road with up and downhill inclines, which makes it a bit more challenging. But I was a high school runner (cross-country included) so I know what I’m up against.
Though I’ve had painful foot problems over the past year, no one will stop me from walking (not even my doctor, who advised against it). I love it too much. What surprises me is that it took a pandemic for me to rediscover and fully explore these places. It’s a personal silver lining in what’s a hard time for all.