I’ve been walking every day for about three months now. This has given me a wealth of insight into how my neck of the woods functions which I was not aware of when I was more housebound. Here are some of my observations:
* This is a “duh” observation, but being outside and seeing the world in ways that exceed walking to and from a big-box store, a restaurant, or your workplace, gives you a completely different feeling about reality. I’m sure that if I hiked or camped or hunted, this would go up another few orders of magnitude, but since I am an avid indoorsman, that won’t be happening. This is probably as much nature as I’m going to willingly experience. With that said, my subdivision is basically a big forest with lakes and creeks in the middle of it, and I see deer, turtles, vultures and other things as I walk, so this isn’t a heavily suburbanized area.
* Kids don’t play outside much, if at all in 2009. While I don’t want to overplay the “back when I was a kid” angle on things, I think that kids did play out way more back then, and that this number has been progressively declining since the advent of game systems. When I was a kid, I think that my brothers had played outside way more than I did a decade earlier when they lived in the city and did lots of stuff. I grew up in the burbs and was hardly playing outside all the time, BUT, I do remember playing variations of “go fish” with the neighborhood kids, riding bikes, exploring around my subdivision, and so on. When I walk, I almost never see kids of any age on the streets, running around, or anywhere. I don’t walk past our pool, and I know kids go there more than anything, but still, there doesn’t seem to be any version of neighborhood football, baseball or anything going on.
Additionally, lots of folks have big playground-type equipment in their own back yards. These include swings, slides, and that stuff. I have never once seen a single kid on these units. Of course, I’m only walking once a day, often at night, so maybe my timing is just off. But I find it hard to believe that kids are playing on these things all the time and I’m always missing it. I think that kids just can’t be bothered with this stuff and that parents buy it for nothing. The parents think it will be great and it ends up being a gathering place for wasps nests.
On a couple occasions I have seen some teens walking from one place to another, but that’s about it. I guess most little kids play inside, watch TV, play video games, or maybe play in their driveway. I don’t see the old neighborhood pack of kids around.
* I rarely see adults outside either. In most cases when I do see adults, they are working on their yard, working on a car, or messing around in the garage. I have seen some poker games going on in garages, some birthday party crowds, and an occasional porch-sitter, but overwhelmingly people are inside.
It is sometimes eerie how desolate it seems out there. I am walking by homes with people in them, but you almost wouldn’t know it. The streets are deserted, all I hear are bugs and birds, and it’s lonely in the middle of a bunch of houses. A contributing factor is that all the homes are built far back from the street and there are no sidewalks, so there is no sense of community, rather it is isolated homes that have trees between them. It is the quintessentially American idea of “leave me alone” that wants as much land as possible and as much distance from neighbors as possible. And since I know a bit about my neighbors, I can’t say that I disagree in reality with this approach, though it feels wrong.