In the interest of getting back to writing in some form or fashion, I’ve decided to try out a Sunday newsletter format that allows for shorter bits and bobs about various topics. This is the first one, offered as a proof of concept. Let me know if you have thoughts.
On tiny actions repeated endlessly
Walking is a sensible, low-impact exercise that I find appealing. Not for me, all the stomping about and gladiator feats of strength. Any physical activity that might inspire someone to say “Wow, you’re a beast!” is verboten. Who aspires to beastliness? Not me. It is enough to be personlike. When someone asks “What do you do for exercise?” and I say “I walk,” then they ask “Where?” and I say “In my neighborhood,” and I actually see their eyes glaze over as they flee in search of a better conversation partner, that’s my sweet spot.
And yet, the walking adds up. I’ve walked at least 30, and more often 45 or 60, minutes per day every day this year. That’s just a morning stroll, done over and over. By a conservative estimate, 248 days into the year, I’ve strolled for nearly 200 hours, covering 600 to 700 miles.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but I’ve never been 600 miles away—by foot, car, plane, train, boat, or any other means—from the spot I am right now.
Thinking of it that way is almost enough to make me wish I hadn’t been walking in circles this whole time. I could be somewhere by now.
It used to be something older people did
When September 11, 2001, happened, I had just turned 15 years old. Enlisting in the military and serving overseas were things done by people older than me—people as old as my brothers, even, who were then practically village elders at 19 and just-shy-of-18 years old. I wouldn’t really have to think about it in terms of me for another three years, when I’d register for the Selective Service at a time when the omnipresence of warlike anthems “American Soldier” and “Have You Forgotten?” on the country radio airwaves made reinstitution of a draft seem not impossible.
Cut to this week. With Afghanistan newly returned to the forefront of my mind, I attended a community vigil for Marine Sgt. Nicole Gee, who was killed in the suicide bombing outside the Kabul airport. She grew up here and attended local schools. An image that circulated online of one of her last Instagram posts had touched my heart, and it became obvious that I should be one more person in the crowd to surround her family with caring. She was 23, barely older than my youngest cousins are now.
Back to the original motive
I have read books for information, for inspiration, for obligation, and for laughs. But I have seldom since childhood, and certainly not at all since avoiding death by COVID became my principal concern, managed to read purely for the companionship of a good, well-told story, which I’m finding right now in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. Have any of you read it? What are you reading right now, anyway?