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022515While I walk by the lake, I listen to an interview with the New Yorker cartoon editor. He says he knows what will be in his obituary, the punchline from his most famous comic — “How about never? Is never good for you?” Yesterday my social media lit up with notes about the anniversary of John Keats’ death and the phrase of his gravestone — “Here is one who was writ on water.” A former student grieves the suicide of a friend and veteran and sends me a link to a video she’d made of him. She keeps watching it. We seek ways to memorialize, to mark the place we have held on this earth. On this tree on the trail I discover dog tags, names written in pen. They represent those who died in poverty, the homeless of our city who were lost last year. Someone wanted to mark their place. Someone wanted them remembered.

February 25, 2015

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By the Water

020815For so much of our time here, the shore east of the Statesman has been close to deserted — bramble and brush, inaccessible. Now on a springlike Sunday afternoon we can’t count the numbers. There are buskers with their guitar cases open, street performers and their jello legs. Personal trainers lead clients in deep lunges against the railing above the water, and at Joe’s Crab Shack, a Stevie Ray-modeled band jams. The music carries. We think New York City. We think Venice Beach boardwalk. We were here first, we joke, as we walk through the crowds. Still, there is a quiet spot on the dock. Paddlers, standing and seated, float by. Dogs. Children in life jackets. Austin is alive on a sunny February day. So are we.

February 8, 2015

Century

020215Winter in Texas isn’t so bad. While photos of houses trapped behind drifts of snow and stories of school closings populate my news feed, we come off a weekend in which people strolled by the lake in t-shirts. But sometimes the cold finds us, and I’ll mark this winter in my mind by the walk I took with friends from Colorado before work one morning. It was 23 degrees and the air was crystalline. We paced the boardwalk almost alone, most people driven inside by the cold. It was hard to describe how rare it was to people who live with the cold all winter. I felt apologetic that the weather hadn’t cooperated for them, and a little thrilled that it offered us such an extreme. The walk to work and back on Monday was more typical of winter here. Chilly, but not frigid. The sky gray, the leafless trees befitting the season. It won’t be long before the primrose jasmine are a tumble of yellow again. And the century plants standing sculptural in gardens keep their noble gray-green no matter the temps.

February 2, 2015

In Shadow I Am Tall

012815Walking the Camino de Santiago, I was often aware of my shadow. It stretched out in front of me in the mornings, drifted to my right in the afternoons. In it I could see my moving legs and swinging arms, my pack changing my body shape from human to something vaguely tortoise. Maybe the brim of my cap. Maybe the nub of a ponytail at the back of my head. Scanning through Camino photos online there are countless snapshots of pilgrim shadows, I think because seeing your figure cast down upon the path is proof that you are doing it — that figure is you, who after planning and dreaming and training and imagining is actually walking, one step at a time, on an ancient trail west toward Santiago. And so this morning shadow as I head out to walk to the office. The streets are familiar, the park I cut through one I have crossed hundreds of times. My shadow is bigger than I am. I’d like to think it is carrying some of the strength, confidence, certitude that I picked up along the Way.

January 28, 2015

Winter Walk

At the end of the day, walking, I listen to Congressman John Lewis say, “When you pray, move your feet” on Krista Tippett’s On Being. It’s an old African proverb, and its wisdom is written through the Civil Rights Movement, which we celebrate today with a Martin Luther King holiday. I didn’t join the march earlier today, and I didn’t volunteer my time. I stayed home and to myself, then I walked a good long time and took visual notes about the world around me. Those notes are above, little peeks into Austin, Texas, on a warm January afternoon. They aren’t about justice or politics. They are glimpses at the funky world I inhabit. But what I carry from the day will be Lewis’s admonition and how I can use it in my own life to seek the right action in all things.

January 19, 2015

What Can Change In a Year

010315

Saturday morning, I wait for Jenny and her dog Lupita for our weekend walk around the lake. I am under the bridge, a place I would have never come a year ago because it was thick with old trash and men without homes and the snarled bank of a lake only seen from a distance. And then they build the boardwalk. And then Jenny and I became better friends. And then I walked a long, long way and decided I wanted to keep walking. And then I stood waiting while the sculls passed on the water and the cars roared overhead and Jenny and Lupita arrived and then seven-and-a-half miles we walked talking books and spouses and jobs and travel blew by in an instant.

January 3, 2015