Gum in My Hair

An embarrassingly honest blog

Stop and LOOK! November 14, 2011

Filed under: Ooooh, Shiny, Pretty — dulcedementia @ 10:57 am
Tags: ,

It’s been around two and a half years since I gave up my car. Maybe less, I don’t know, unless there’s an “o’clock” next to it, I’m really bad at gauging time. But I think it was around two and a half years. Sure, there are days when I wish I had a car. Have you ever tried hefting a 50 pound bag of dog food home? Yeah, no, neither have I. But that’s what friends are for and if I’m really in a bind, I know I can count on one of them to bail me out. So, sure, I have to leave a little earlier for things. Sure, I have to sit next to some funk on the bus, but you know what, I would change it for the world. You know why?

I like the way that this sticker tore. I think it's pretty. That's all.

Because I get to see the city. I mean really see it. We miss so much zooming through neighborhoods in our cars and, yes, our bikes (I use my Millie for anything over a mile). When you walk, you really get to take in everything. Hell, even the bus is a nice, passive way to get around and stare out a window without any social pressure to make conversation with the person sitting next to you.

The saying goes, “God is in the details.” To change it around for my fellow atheists, “Beauty is in the details.” We’re so inundated with bright flashing lights, billboards and messages shouting at us from every possible medium, that we’ve stopped noticing all of the small things that make up the beauty in the world around us and give us insight into humanity.

It’s one of the biggest reasons why I love street art so much. It makes people who might not ordinarily pay attention to a drab brick wall, stop and maybe even take a picture of the discovery of a beautiful work of art pasted to the side of an abandoned building. Also, street art rewards those of us that pay attention to our surroundings as we walk. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve pointed out art to friends that they walked right by because it was on the sidewalk or the lower corner of a building or electrical box.

When you look at your surroundings, you start seeing the little things. The pieces of frost clinging to one of the most goddamn stubborn, resilient roses you’ve ever seen. The deep, rich maroon of one singular leaf clinging to a barren branch. The kindness of a homeless man sharing half of his cheeseburger with his dog.

In my opinion, these are the little things that make up a whole that is a pretty wonderful life and I’m always shocked when people don’t see the same things I do. I guess it makes sense. We spend so much time involved in things that take us inward or give us tunnel vision: computers, phones, video games and more. It seems like we’re starting to forget how to look outward for inspiration and awe.

So, here’s my challenge to you. Take a 30 minute walk around your hood. Bring some music if you want, I find having a soundtrack is always nice. But no email, no phone calls. Just re-engage with your senses. Really look at all of the details surrounding you and be grateful for it. Your eyes have so much to look at; your nose, so much to smell, your ears, so much to hear.

Just stop and look and marvel at the world around you.


2 Responses to “Stop and LOOK!”

  1. Ken Says:

    People usually associate cars with freedom. I can understand that. I like driving. I like the sensation of mashing the gas petal to the floor and feeling the G-forces rush up behind me. If I told you that if I struck it rich, I wouldn’t go buy a new car, I’d be lying. There is some relaxing comfort in knowing that with a credit card and a rental car, all your basic needs are easily accessible in any place in America.

    But I identify with everything you said, too.

    I travel frequently to Chicago for work and much of my spare time is spent exploring the city on foot. If a museum or cultural attraction looks interesting, I’ll walk in without concern for parking or traffic. If it’s hot, I’ll stop in a corner bar and enjoy a beer before heading onward, if I continue at all. I’ve even taken commuter trains to cities I’ve never been to without a plan on where to stay. Somehow when you’re on foot, it’s an exploration; when you’re behind the wheel, it’s an agenda.

    I also certainly wish urban planners would stop designing around the car. Even in places like north Boulder on broadway, where walkability was supposedly designed-for, there’s a sterile feeling that comes from being one of the only people on foot. But I’m not sure what I would have done differently.

    Anyway, yes, +1 to all of that.

    • dulcedementia Says:

      Ken, Thanks so much for your reply. And, yes, if I won the lottery, I’d probably splurge on a 1971 Dodge Charger (if you’re going to get a car, get a CAR, right?), and I’ll never hate on anyone with a car because it does give them a certain type of freedom that I gave up. Unfortunately, city planners won’t stop designing around the car until we stop using cars so much. It’s a catch 22.

      Chicago is my faaaaaaaavorite city! If it wasn’t for the weather there, I would have moved there long ago. Anytime I go there (about once a year) I make relatively few plans and then just hop on the El and see where it takes me. The transit system there is really pretty good and very easy to learn.

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