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01/12/2007 Archived Entry: "Fourth week on foot -- the things that matter"

FOUR WEEKS ON FOOT HAVE DRIVEN HOME the gulf -- the glorious gulf, really -- between what the media imagines we care about and what we really do care about.

After a week-long media orgy over his death, flags still fly half-staff for Gerald Ford. But in all this time, I've never heard a single local so much as mention the man -- except in response to my few questions about whether anybody actually cares. Then our Deep National Mourning finds expression in shrugs, ironic head shakes, and contemptful grimaces.

Angel trumpets sound from every major media outlet. A woman has ascended to the Power and Glory of the Speakership. Halellujah, halellujah!

Again, not a single person I know has mentioned The Great Historic Event.

On foot or on the bus, I meet locals I've never met before. I spend more time in shops talking with the owners and clerks. A friend drives me home when I'm loaded down with packages. And we talk. We talk about the big annual fundraisers held to support arts organizations and cancer research, and about the impromptu fundraisers for the latest victim of an accident or illness. We talk about whether Californians will be moving in and whether the town's fortunes are headed up or down. About families. About guns. About health. About dogs. About weather. About movies, books, knitting, car repairs, river rafting, and what the local cops are up to.

These are intelligent people, mostly. Educated (whether formally or self-) and aware. Yet the most loudly trumpeted doings of "their" politicians are as irrelevant to them as the deeds of the governing councils of Upsnortistan or Lower Gnorf.

Which is both good and bad, of course. Those self-trumpeting pols and their media chorus get away with an insane amount while good people aren't watching. But it certainly does bode well for the peaceable anarchy that is daily life.


Four weeks today since the Toyota died. And -- grateful though I am to all the people who've offered help with the truck in various ways, I almost hate to admit how much I'm enjoying myself.

I'm seeing things I've never noticed before. I'm appreciating adapting my behavior to the weather (though I also see why human beings were delighted to escape having to do that). I've lost an inch around my waist from walking. My youngest dog is getting better socialized by going to town with me on leash instead of rushing unleashed through the woods to commune with porcupines.

No $40 gas-tank fillups. No heart-thumping dread at seeing a squad car in the rear-view mirror. Wow. Now that is incredibly liberating.

Unexpected side benefit: I'm eating healthier. Not that my diet was ever really bad. But now, as I wheel down the aisles of the grocery store, knowing I have to carry my purchases a mile up hill, I find myself asking, "Is that heavy can really worth lugging? If A might crowd B out of my packpack, which is more important?" And you know, carrots, fresh fish, and apples win out over Campbell's soup and boxes of crackers every time.

I'm still uneasy about sometimes needing to rely on friends. I fear to impose and wear out their patience. Yet I marvel at those good people, too.

One day my vet needed a urine sample, no more than half an hour old, from one of my dogs. No way I could walk or bus it to her that quickly. I was prepared to walk to her office to leave the pup overnight. Then a lovely little relay team took care of things. My dog-loving friend K. swung by after work, helped me collect the sample, then rushed it to the vets as he passed by her office on an errand. An hour later, a vet tech, headed home from work, delivered antibiotics and prescription kibble to my door. In return, I owe future work on a newsletter.

The Pyramid Man's office manager continues to drive me home after weekly appointments (which are themselves an awesome gift), and I've discovered a lovely, lively new friend.

Yesterday, a friend of a friend brought over a bottle of fuel stabilizer to put into the Toyota's gas tank while it sits idle. I was ready to walk to the hardware store to get the stuff. But he was eager to come over with it. Now I'm looking through my recipes and wondering what flavor of cookies he prefers. And he and I are talking about going shooting this weekend.

Sometimes I have to stop people from being too helpful. ("No, seriously, I really want to walk home. It's good for me.")

I realize not everybody can afford the luxury of going vehicle-less. I'm fortunate. I don't have kids to haul here and there. Don't have to drive 20 miles to a job. I live close to a small town and am healthy enough for the walk. And of course, while not having my own vehicle, I'm certainly relying at times on other people and their vehicles. So please don't make the mistake of thinking I'm implying "everybody should give up their cars!"

It's just that, once again I'm discovering that something we conventionally regard as a deprivation actually brings a host of surprising benefits, from better health to closer relationships. Once again, the lack of a modern "convenience" opens a door into something wonderful that people had for themselves and among themselves before overriding convenience pushed that nice, but slower and more interdependent, something out of the way.

Posted by Claire @ 08:40 AM CST

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