You don’t need to go to the gym

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Walking around Praiano on our last night there.

I love our doula for a number of reasons, but one of the first moments in which she stole my heart was when she looked and me and said, “You don’t need to go to the gym.”

She didn’t say this because I’m exceptionally fit; she said it because she believes that no one has to go to the gym. I have always believed this, but now, thanks to her, I finally have a more comprehensive philosophy to back up this long-held personal conviction.

Before sharing a short primer on what I’ve learned, here are the cards I brought to the table.

Gyms are a waste of time, money, and emotional energy

The American relationship to “exercise” has always struck me as counterproductive. It clearly has roots in our Puritan heritage, in which “no pain, no gain” breeds a vicious cycle of guilt and self-flagellation, then more guilt and more self-flagellation.

“I’ve been bad,” my friends say. “I haven’t been to the gym in a week.” We create a direct relationship between our personal worth and our time exercising. If we’ve been “good” at working out, we can call ourselves righteous and actually feel superior; we love ourselves (and our bodies) a little bit more. If we’ve been “bad,” we feel guilt—but a guilt that only has a superficial effect on changing our behavior (i.e., we don’t actually end up going to the gym more or feeling joy in our hearts when we do). And then we get trapped in this hellish, Spandex-y cycle. The problem with this legalistic approach to our bodies is that it doesn’t work.

Gyms haven’t made us any healthier. The United States has far more health clubs and gyms than any other country (although Brazil is gaining on us), and yet our nationwide obesity rate continues to rise with no sign of slowing down. (Six states last year saw their obesity rates increase, and no states saw their obesity rates decrease. Another interesting side note: Brazil’s obesity rate has also skyrocketed. The gyms aren’t working for them either.) Furthermore, gyms are generally a big waste of money: 67% of gym members don’t even go to the gym that they pay so much for.

(Diet, of course, is an enormous part of a holistic portrait of health, which I won’t address here. There are a million polemics and books about it from far more qualified sources, and you already know the Pollan dicta: Eat real food. Mostly plants. Not too much.)

So, here’s the rub: Americans love to strip pleasure out of everything. Eating? It’s a chore; let’s do it as fast as possible, preferably in our cars or in front of a TV. Let’s obsess over calories and carbohydrates and develop deeply unhealthy relationships to our bodies! Physical movement? It’s a moral obligation; let’s pay an absurd monthly fee to do it indoors, on machines, and judge each other and ourselves while we do it!

The whole concept of “doing exercise,” as if it were this one-hour cardio burst you have to check off your list and then you can laze around on the sofa for the next eight hours, is ludicrous. I lived with a young woman in college who lived on a diet of chicken breasts, literal platefuls of ketchup, and egg whites. She’d then go to the gym for an “intense workout,” in the hopes of earning herself a “free pass” for the rest of the week, but then she’d collapse at home on the sofa or on her bed, exhausted and malnourished.

This is nonsense, and, I think, a terrible way to live. (And I have thought this for years; see a post from 2014, meditating on my time in Japan and how Japanese women don’t get fat and don’t go to gyms.)

If you enjoy the gym, that’s fine; knock yourself out. I also like spending money on unnecessary things, like Korean skincare and handmade beeswax candles! We all have our thing; we’re American, after all. But we’re all so overworked and undernourished. And gyms aren’t helping us with these problems. Our American approach toward “exercise” creates a deeply messed-up attitude toward our bodies and the way we move them. It’s no wonder we’re so fat and so sad.

Learning from people who never go to the gym

Thanks to my doula, I now have a more unifying worldview in which to place these long-held convictions. She introduced me to Katy Bowman and Nutritious Movement. Bowman is a biomechanist who advocates, in a nutshell, for moving a lot more, in highly variable, natural ways, to break us out of our deeply sedentary modern lifestyles. (Watch this 5-minute video for a quick introduction to her philosophy.)

“Modern living does not require that we move, and to add insult to injury, it actually limits full use of our body. For example, a couch, although super comfortable, limits the full use of your ankles, knees, and hips. It sets the distance over which your legs and hip muscles can work. If you’re leaning against something right now, that something is doing the work your core muscles would be doing were that thing not there. We’ve effectively outsourced the use of our bodies to our stuff. And then when we ask our bodies to hold us up, and hold stuff in, they fail. Make no mistake, it’s not only the tissue that’s broken; it’s the habitat.” — Katy Bowman, Diastasis Recti

Before I had even heard about Bowman, I thought a lot about the locals we saw and lived next to in the Amalfi Coast this past May. We were worn out by the extremely terraced layout of the towns of Positano and Praiano, which are carved into cliffs. Furthermore, we were gobsmacked by the very old people who were climbing hundreds of stone steps a day with no assistance, no walkers, no human aides. (Praiano is perhaps the least wheelchair-accessible town I’ve ever seen.) They passed us easily on the steps, while we (many of the family in knee braces) had to pause often to catch our breaths.

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A typical road in Praiano.

This discrepancy made sense, though, once we started watching the locals a little more closely. Almost everyone had a garden, and all throughout the day, senior citizens could be seen tending their little plots of land: their tomatoes and olive trees and rows of tidy vegetables. We also watched them walking back and forth from the little markets, carrying their bundles and baskets with aplomb. Old men and women spent time eating and drinking with friends on balconies, hanging their laundry up to dry, and fastidiously sweeping and cleaning their homes. They had lived their entire lives moving up and down these impossible and endless flights of stairs. Living there is hard work, and that’s the point. They’re all probably going to live to be 115.

“The Mediterranean lifestyle is walking with friends and family. Instead of thinking of exercise as something that you have to do, just walk or dance or move in joyful ways.” — Kelly Toups, nutrition director for Oldways, quoted here

Likewise, my time in Japan influenced me profoundly when thinking about lifestyle and movement. There are hardly any gyms in Japan. People eat well and walk everywhere. They take good care of their homes; they garden; they participate in neighborhood clean-up day with their children (photo below). And they also live forever.

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My neighborhood in Japan participating in clean-up day as a community (June 2008).

I remember feeling like I needed to “exercise” and go for runs in Japan (this, even though I was bicycling and walking miles to school and eating the best seafood of my life). My host mother Keiko was utterly baffled by this. “But, Abby-san,” she said, “why? I don’t understand. What are you running for?” She was worried about me. She looked at me like I was crazy. Indeed. What was I running for? Because that’s what college girls did; that’s what they were supposed to do so they wouldn’t hate themselves later. Thankfully, I grew up and out of this toxic attitude.

The healthiest people in the world—people like the elderly men and women in Praiano and my Japanese host family—don’t go to gyms.

Because who has time for the gym, really? No one does. Instead, movement should just be a part of our everyday lives, worked into every part of our day.

How I’m moving now

I share all of this with you with great joy, not at all with judgment! I am simply so happy to have discovered an approach to movement in life that is free of gym memberships and guilt and polyester tank tops with built-in bras. I just want to share the good news with you. So, here are some the happy ways that I am moving.

  • I’m walking as much as possible. We’re lucky that we can walk to work and to church, and so I have been walking every day for the past few weeks—even though it’s winter, even though I hate the cold, even though it gets dark so soon. I now walk at least 2 miles a day, and I’d like to work up to more than 5 miles a day (which I accomplish only on the weekends, when I take Pyrrha for longer jaunts around town). We use the car so much less now, and when I do, I park as far away as possible from my destination.
  • I’m sitting as little as possible. This is difficult, because I have a desk job, but I’m moving around a lot at work. I downloaded a Chrome extension that reminds me to get up and walk every hour, and I change my position a lot. I will sit in seiza on my chair; fold my legs in different positions; refuse to use the back of the chair and sit in straight alignment instead. When my boss or clients aren’t around, I will also sit on the floor in various positions with my laptop. I also realized that I don’t need to sit when I’m offered chairs. When I’m in a waiting room, I now stand awkwardly near a wall. It’s fun.
  • I’m resisting the inclination to sit when I get home. Now, I try not to sit down when I get home at the end of the day until dinner. While Guion cooks, I sweep; I tidy; I walk the dog; I read a book or write a letter standing up. If we watch TV, I sit now on the coffee table or floor or on an exercise ball.
  • I’m rejecting supportive shoes and heels. This one threw me for a loop. Birkenstocks and Dansko shoes are not helpful, and heels are absolute murder on your body’s alignment. Heels turn us into misaligned monkeys, and supportive shoes are big casts for our atrophied feet, which have been ruined by decades of walking on flat, manmade surfaces with cushy soles. The most minimal footwear possible (zero rise) is preferable to re-train and strengthen our feet. I’m also trying to walk on varied terrain as much as I can, which means walking in the grass or in the woods or on pebbles instead of on concrete or asphalt. Pyrrha also prefers this.

There’s a lot more that I can do, and I’m far from breaking myself out of a sedentary mold, but I feel energized by the progress I’ve made thus far. I’m excited about the weather warming up and returning to gardening, which is one of my favorite activities.

In sum, I feel very joyful about moving through life this way. It has been a pleasure to adopt these new practices, because it doesn’t feel like a chore. It’s honestly been easy and pleasant. Treadmills and yoga classes have always felt like absolute drudgery to me. I’ve always hated being in a room with other sweaty people, performing exercise. Now, I can just live and move and breathe, with a little more philosophical support behind this lifestyle I had already bought into without knowing it.

Further reading

 

Saying goodbye to London

London has been our temporary home this summer, and even though I have the first flutterings of homesickness for dear old Virginia, I will miss the joys of this great, sprawling city.

Night in West End with the BushesThings I’ll miss about London/the English way of life

  • All of the glorious, beautifully maintained public parks. Really. I don’t think any city wins at the park game as much as London does.
  • Pubs and pub culture
  • Well-behaved off-leash dogs everywhere
  • Tea! It’s ubiquitous and well made and consumed on a near-constant basis. Unlike in Virginia, I don’t have to explain to anyone what I want when I order tea.
  • Walking everywhere, the preservation of walking culture, the delineation of trails and country paths
  • Preservation of history, architecture, and art throughout the city
  • Endless variety of things to do, see, and eat
  • Every imaginable international cuisine right at your doorstep (or, at least, an hour’s walk away)
  • The friends we’ve made (and reunited with) here

Out with W and T

Things I won’t miss about London/the English way of life

  • Fish & chips. So overrated.
  • Sweltering daily rides on the Tube
  • Having to ride the Tube every day in general. (Although I vastly prefer it to the NY subway system! So much cleaner and quieter and more reliable)
  • Feeling like you are breathing in black clouds of toxins every day on the street. I am eager for that clean Blue Ridge mountain air.
  • The weather! (We had a gorgeous sunny, 80-degree day in Wield; then the next day, it was misty and rainy, and the Brits we were with literally walked out the door into the cold fog and said, “Oh, thank God, the weather is back to normal.” They’re insane.)
  • Walking behind people who are smoking and being unable to pass them
  • Slow walkers
  • How outrageously expensive everything is (we can’t really complain, compared with actual Londoners, but it still was shocking)

Guion and I have been talking about London customs we want to adopt in our life when we get back to Charlottesville. For instance, we realized that we are really lazy about walking places. We live very centrally to many things, and yet we’ll choose to drive instead of walk 45 minutes. A 45-minute walk in London is no big deal. Other aspects to adopt: taking advantage of all of the hikes and parks around us; training the dogs to behave themselves better in public; and acting like tourists in our own city (e.g., we have lived in Charlottesville for six years and have still never been to Monticello. I know).

London, you’ve been grand. We hope to come see you again soon.

Up next: A week in Paris. And then home!

Woolf, more on street harassment, and simple things

How Virginia Woolf did not age well (or, rather, she aged very rapidly) and yet she maintained this essential quality of light elegance, quiet composure. In contrast to her brilliant, racing mind? I feel somewhat obsessed with that photograph of her, from 1938, just three years before she died; her limpid expression, the angle of the camera, the light behind her.

In the grim state of affairs regarding women’s public safety, my conclusion is thus: You simply cannot trust men you do not know. This sounds dark and cynical, but I feel dark and cynical about the state of women’s freedom and the outrageous lack of respect for women as human beings. A close friend worked at the same hospital as Hannah Graham’s alleged murderer and rapist and said he was the nicest, gentlest guy; so did many of his friends. “So, now knowing all of this, and knowing how I found him to be such a trustworthy person,” my friend said, “how can you trust anyone?” We let the question fall and didn’t answer, because what could we say? Who can you trust? But “anyone,” to me, is the limiting factor. I’d answer that you just can’t trust unfamiliar men with your physical safety, ever. Because Lord knows a woman isn’t going to rape you and then throw your body in a stream.

We were talking about this case again with friends around a bonfire and the daily reality of street harassment came up. Except that the men around us — thinking, respectful, generous men — seemed somewhat shocked that this was a daily reality for us women. We women all agreed that we were always on alert, everywhere, even in daylight, even in familiar places. Stories about harassment that had happened just a few hours prior bubbled up. The men were silent. But none of it was unusual to the women. Constantly checking our surroundings, whether day or night, watching for suspicious characters, cringing when walking past a construction site: these are not behaviors that men commonly concern themselves with.

Someone said, “Well, they’re just yelling at you; they don’t have any real power over you.” But men who harass you on the street do, unfortunately, wield a form of power over you. Because they make you afraid. They make you feel unsafe. They make you frightened of your surroundings, mistrustful of society at large. They make you feel exposed and vulnerable. This is how a patriarchal society works.

I have to quote Rebecca Solnit again, because I feel like I just can’t get over this:

Women have routinely been punished and intimidated for attempting that most simple of freedoms, taking a walk, because their walking and indeed their very beings have been construed as inevitably, continually sexual in those societies concerned with controlling women’s sexuality.

— Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking

Please, look me in the eye and tell me that we don’t need feminism. That women have enough rights already. Say it to my face.

We talked about ways to respond to street harassment and didn’t come up with any workable solutions. Responding, to me, is giving such a man what he wants (recognition that his words have affected you), even if that response is a middle finger (or a thumbs down, as someone cutely suggested). I’ve always chosen to ignore, to steel myself to wear an unfeeling mask. But I don’t know if that does anything to resolve this ongoing issue.

Every time something as horrific as Hannah Graham’s murder crops up in the news, every time a man shouts an obscenity at a woman in the street, the only refrain I can recall is you are not free, you are not free, you are not free…

As a corollary to this conversation about street harassment, my friend Tara made an interesting side note. “No one hollers at you when you have a bunch of babies strapped to you,” she said, with a wry smile. That interested me. I wonder if other mothers would report the same? Street harassment is negated if you are accompanied by small children?

A woman will also never experience catcalling if she is accompanied by a man. Presumably, that woman is owned by her male companion and she is therefore protected, as his property, from verbal abuse. So there’s that. (Which also enrages me in a different way. That even the basest men somehow respect this misogynistic code of behavior toward one another — if a man has “his” woman with him, “his” woman is therefore ineligible to receive harassment. But a woman daring to walk alone? Open season!)

Virginia Woolf, June 1926. (c) National Portrait Gallery. #virginiawoolf
Virginia Woolf, June 1926. National Portrait Gallery.

This devolved rather quickly. I had intended to write about simple, pretty things.

Like how my rosemary has flourished in the front yard. Like the way Eden leans against my chair while I am reading and looks directly into my eyes with an unblinking, expectant stare. Like the fact that I am savoring Lila and reading it with worshipful patience. Like having lunch with Guion on the deck on a weekday, with the dogs sunbathing, with the leaves fluttering to the ground, with the yellow jacket persistently hovering over your raised spoon.

Women walking

A Shaker woman with her dog, from the LIFE Magazine Archives.
A Shaker woman and her dog. Source: LIFE Magazine Archives.

Women have routinely been punished and intimidated for attempting that most simple of freedoms, taking a walk, because their walking and indeed their very beings have been construed as inevitably, continually sexual in those societies concerned with controlling women’s sexuality.

— Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking

Since finishing Rebecca Solnit’s lovely book Wanderlust: A History of Walking, I have continued to reflect on the pleasures of a good, long walk.

Specifically, I feel breathless when I consider the large number of barriers that still exist to women who dare to walk alone.

(1) In history, any woman who was on the street alone was a prostitute (a street-walker). Even today, any woman who exists on a street unaccompanied by a man could be accused or suspected of prostitution. In some countries ruled by fundamentalist religion, it is still unlawful for a woman to exist in public without being accompanied by a man. (I recall Malala Yousafzai laughing about the absurdity of this rule in her memoir; by law, she had to be accompanied by a man on her errands in her Afghan village. But that “man” was her 4-year-old brother, who she was just baby-sitting on the way to the market. But by Taliban order, he fulfilled the law and was “protecting” her.)

(2) Furthermore, women are daily subjected to sexual harassment if they deign to exist on a public street alone. Regardless of attire, women come to expect some form of verbal or even physical harassment on the street. A woman alone on a street? Surely she deserves to be ridiculed and disgraced for her existence, for her outrageous boldness to possess a body! So men may yell at her, shout obscenities at her, do whatever possible to make her feel belittled, ashamed, and used.

(3) Women’s clothing has also been a barrier to free movement. And even though women no longer have to wear corsets and yards and yards of fabric to pass the muster of common decency, we are still hobbled by high heels and mini-skirts. Woolf puts the sartorial tension between the sexes perfectly in Orlando:

Thus, there is much to support the view that it is clothes that wear us and not we them; we may make them take the mould of arm or breast, but they mould our hearts, our brains, our tongues to their liking. So, having now worn skirts for a considerable time, a certain change was visible in Orlando, which is to be found even in her face. If we compare the picture of Orlando as a man with that of Orlando as a woman we shall see that though both are undoubtedly one and the same person, there are certain changes. The man has his hand free to seize his sword; the woman must use hers to keep the satins from slipping from her shoulders. The man looks the world full in the face, as if it were made for his uses and fashioned to his liking. The woman takes a sidelong glance at it, full of subtlety, even of suspicion. Had they both worn the same clothes, it is possible that their outlook might have been the same too.

— Virginia Woolf, Orlando

(4) Accordingly, violence against women is commonplace, and so a woman alone is constantly thinking about being mugged, assaulted, or raped. And yet this threat of violence is also used to keep women continually living in a state of fear; to live under the constant reminder that you are never safe, you are never whole unless you have a male protector from male violence.

It is simple, societal examples like this the mere consideration of something as mundane as walking that makes me ASTOUNDED when people say that we have no need for feminism, that our feminist work here is done. Or when supposedly intelligent women eschew the term “feminist” as if it were an epithet; it really and truly blows my mind.

Solnit writes in Wanderlust that she had been followed by a man who was yelling vile sexual proposals to her. When she finally turned around and told him off, he was livid and told her she had no right to speak to him that way and threatened to kill her. She writes:

It was the most devastating discovery of my life that I had no real right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness out-of-doors, that the world was full of strangers who seemed to hate me and wish to harm me for no reason other than my gender, that sex so readily became violence, and that hardly anyone else considered it a public issue rather than a private problem. I was advised to stay indoors at night, to wear baggy clothes, to cover or cut my hair, to try to look like a man, to move someplace more expensive, to take taxis, to buy a car, to move in groups, to get a man to escort me—all modern versions of Greek walls and Assyrian veils, all asserting it was my responsibility to control my own and men’s behavior rather than society’s to ensure my freedom.

So, what is a modern woman to do if she wants to take a walk?

Simply, I think, keep walking.

I have also found that having a pair of German shepherds is a benefit. For better or worse, I never feel my typical whispers of fear when I am walking solo if I have Pyrrha and Eden at my side. In general, people don’t try to eff with German shepherds. (Even though the worst my dogs would do to you is jump on you and maybe bark in your face.) But they are my constant walking companions. Scary or no, they improve my mental state. There is nothing quite so enjoyable as a good, long walk with a dog at one’s side.

My feminism posts always end with this note of grim reality, a recognition that women are still not free. It drags me down, but I am resolved to keep thinking and walking, regardless of cultural mores, and take the dogs with me.

Impressions

Post-coital mourning doves

At lunch, I watched these mourning doves try to have sex. She rebuffed him after his failed attempt, and then they shuffled apart from each other and went back to preening themselves separately, not making eye contact. I imagine that she went back to her tree afterward, drank some white wine, and called up her girlfriends to say that she just didn’t think this relationship was going to work out.

I am reading a book about walking (Wanderlust, by Rebecca Solnit), and I’m really enjoying it. People laugh when I say this, but walking is one of my chief joys in life. It sounds funny because it sounds so mundane; it’s not like my chief joy is skydiving or horse wrangling. But there is no black mood that I can’t lift with a good, long walk. I crave a daily walk. My love of walking is also likely connected to my love of dogs and my love of solitary thinking; all three elements complement each other.

Things I could learn from Kelsey and Alex:

  • Minimalist living
  • The names of every world leader and his or her general policy stance
  • Why Ukraine is under siege
  • How world economies will adapt if the birth rate keeps falling in the developed world
  • Where to buy exercise clothes

Lemon tree

The lemon tree is getting rather ungainly. Here he is, sunbathing on the back deck. I got one fat, juicy lemon from him last year. I’m gunning for two this year. Dreaming big!

I also have a tendency to presume that all of my plants are male. I am not sure why.

I found an old diary from my senior year of high school. I wrote like I was living in a Jane Austen novel. And I, of course, was Elizabeth Bennet. And every boy was some Austenian archetype (there was a Mr. Bingley, Mr. Darcy, Mr. Wickham, Mr. Collins, etc.). It was very weird to re-read. I was surprised to read these dramatic scenes from my young life. I felt, at times, like I was reading a young adult novel about some other girl, some person entirely different from myself. I’d forgotten so many things that I barely believe they ever happened to me.

On walking unfamiliar streets

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One of the strangest recurrent sensations I have is this: When I walk down an unfamiliar street in town, I am often hit with the feeling that I could be living in a foreign country, that I might be residing in a town 1,000 miles away from my true home. I don’t know what this means. Sometimes it feels a little like déjà vu. Or as if I were walking through a set in some film I have already seen.

I like this sensation, inexplicable as it is. It is one of the surest ways that I think my brain tells me: You are on your own now.

♦ ♦ ♦

Things I have recently gotten into:

  1. Italian mineral water.
  2. Looking up words in the physical dictionary.
  3. Twitter.
  4. Keeping a planner (even though Google Calendar sometimes makes me feel redundant).
  5. Reading children’s books out loud with Guion (currently: A Series of Unfortunate Events).
  6. Wearing heels to work.

♦ ♦ ♦

This warm weather is freaking me out a bit. I love warm weather, but it is not supposed to be 70°F in Virginia in January. I’ve taken advantage of it, though, by walking Pyrrha at night when I get home. We see the neighbors, we stalk the cats, we daydream about houses that we’ll never be able to afford. Last night, another German shepherd almost jumped out of a truck window after us. Pyrrha paused and looked at him and I think she said, “Hello, distant relative. Bring it on.”

Horticultural learning curves

Inherited perennial beds.

How I have changed since moving to our mini-homestead:

  1. I am no longer as bothered by bugs. There are seemingly a million different types of insects who reside in our fertile backyard (as in, slugs wearing the coats of leopards). Many of them often make their way into our home. Stink bugs, my former archenemies, are now low on the list of my concerns. I swear there are ten times as many insect varieties in Virginia as there were in North Carolina. Some of these bugs are so exotic-looking. We dug up the wild bed of mint last weekend and found cicada larvae, which are supremely creepy and ghost-like. We find brilliantly colored beetles, giant ants with wings, wasps the size of small mice. The yellow swallowtails that visit the butterfly bush (featured above) are the only ones who make me happy, though. Pyrrha is also our resident moth huntress in the evenings. While I have no particular problem with moths, I do enjoy watching her stalk them.
  2. I want to go walking all the time, all day long, particularly now that I have a perpetually eager walking companion. Our early morning walks are the best, because the streets are quiet and the heat isn’t oppressive yet. We are still exploring this new area of town. Every new street makes me feel like I’m in a foreign country. This morning, we saw a hunky German shepherd walking a balding man and a rainbow hot air balloon dipping low over the street, gliding down through the neighborhood, looking as if it were about to land on our house. Pyrrha was as interested in it as I was; she’d stop and pause to watch it every so often.
  3. I don’t read as much. This is a shame. I am trying to figure out how to amend this, but I don’t think I can keep up with my former pace. I am ambling through Proust, picking through Joyce, rushing through Covey.
  4. I like sleeping without the A/C on, to a certain extent. It’s like a game. Almost every night now, we ask each other, “Can you sleep without the A/C on?” And the other replies, “I can if you can.” (The dog, however, is a diva and hates the heat. Could have something to do with her full fur coat. I don’t know.)
  5. I don’t spend a fortune on berries anymore, because we grow all of the ones I’d want to eat anyway. Yes. That was not a humble brag; it is a full-out brag. (But one we can’t take credit for; all glory due to our landlord, the gardening goddess.)
  6. I feel more grown up somehow.
  7. I never want to go anywhere anymore.

Good things? Bad things? Qui sait? But they are things.

Week 12: Daily walks

In honor of my sister Grace, I am imposing a set of weekly challenges on myself. For 12 weeks, I will attempt a different “challenge” each week–to do one thing every day for seven days, ranging from serious to silly. At the end of each week, I’ll let you know how it goes.

Welcome to Charlottesville
Walking around town.

It’s hard to believe that I’ve completed twelve weeks of challenges. They’ve ranged from serious to silly, but they have all been fun and often enlightening. I’ve learned a lot of little facts about myself and about my process of making and following ritual. Some of the challenges have been incorporated into my daily life and I hope I’ll continue some of them in the future.

For this final week, I wanted to take a stroll. Now that we’ve skipped spring and gone straight into summer, a week of daily walks has been really enjoyable, if occasionally sweaty.

If I was a good blogger, I would have taken pictures from all of these walks, but I’m not, so you’ll just have to deal.

DAY 1.
Guion and I walked downtown to meet our Bible study friends Mark and Christina for Chap’s ice cream on the Downtown Mall. It was a hot and breezy afternoon and a little cup of Chap’s made it feel like heaven. I love strolling around the Mall and we walk there often. It’s less than a 10-minute walk from our apartment and it’s always packed with dogs. What’s not to love?

DAY 2.
I had to do some research for my boss at SNL Financial, which is also downtown. I parked the Jeep at our place and then walked over. Got there a bit early, so I strolled around the blocks behind the building and looked at all of the historic houses that now feature the offices of real estate agents or lawyers.

DAY 3.

Watching "Gosford Park" with my bestie.

My weekly walk with Bo turned out to be something of an exhilarating misadventure. I head over to Liz’s to pick him up and we chat about how silly it is that her team’s soccer game was canceled because of a thunderstorm/tornado warning. Yeah, absurd. I walk Bo downtown and we’re having a fine time until I feel a spattering of rain. Then I look at the sky. It is not gray. Or dark blue. It is black. Slate. Full of doom. Bo and I then run–sprint!–across the Belmont Bridge and make it back to my front porch right before the sky bursts open. We had amazingly good timing, because a second after we got inside… thunder, lightning, torrential rain, minor flooding, wind howling, the whole deal. Thankfully, Bo isn’t thunderstorm-phobic (like Emma was) and so he chilled with me in our apartment. He helped me do the dishes and then started watching “Gosford Park” with me until it cleared up enough to take him home. I think he’s the perfect dog. I confessed to Guion and Liz that I am now worried about getting a dog because he or she may not be as amazing as Bo is. I love him.

DAY 4.
Despite starting out rather rough, it turned out to be a very beautiful evening and so I took Bo for another walk. Guion joined me this time and we went wandering through the charming and eclectic Belmont neighborhood. We daydreamed about houses we’d buy and dubious ways we’d coerce current residents to move out and give us their gorgeous homes with manicured lawns and sprawling gardens.

DAY 5.
Guion joined me on a walk to the Downtown Mall to buy cupcakes from Cappellino’s for Cate’s royal wedding princess party. He was a bit astonished at the price of gourmet cupcakes. Aren’t we all.

DAY 6.
Our lovely housemate Hannah joined us on a late morning walk to the Charlottesville farmers’ market. We ended up buying delicious mint tea, baklava, and a babe in the wood, and therefore nothing really healthy or valuable for the rest of the week. Oh well! From there, we wandered over to The Garage, where Stephanie and Emily were hosting a tag sale. Guion went off to brew day for the rest of the afternoon; I went to Mecca, aka Target. When Guion got home, we walked downtown again to eat at Miyako for dinner. Quite excellent, if I do say so.

DAY 7.
Win came! We walked downtown with him and went to church and it was awesome. We’re crossing our fingers that he moves here…

That’s all, folks! It’s been a fun way to welcome spring. To be honest, it will be kind of nice to not worry about weekly goals, but I think I will try to keep some of these habits on regular rotation. Thanks for reading; talk to you soon.

Monday Snax

Angela comes to visit!

Angela came for the weekend and we had a lovely time together, talking, laughing, watching the unbelievably awful trailer for the Will and Kate movie… I wish she could have stayed all week!

Snax with a side of heavily salted fries:

Walk Score. One of the things I love about where we live is that we can walk practically everywhere! Post office, bank, drug store, church, a billion restaurants, you name it; we can walk there in about 10 minutes. This awesome website lets you type in your address and gives you a score on how walkable it is. It also allows you to enter your work address and gives you estimates on how long it would take you to walk or bike to that location. Really excellent resource to keep in mind, particularly as we’re looking for another Charlottesville home in about a year. (Walk Score)

Is Sugar Toxic? Answer: Probably. A terrifying article; it’s a long summary of various studies on the dangerous effects of sugar/glucose/fructose on our bodies. As if I needed yet another reason to keep up this (mostly!) sugar-free Lent challenge… (New York Times)

Ten People We Wished Had Used the Jon Kyl/Kobe Non-Apology. So hilarious. Public figures! They’re idiots and yet they can never be held responsible for what they say because of this new non-apology/”not intended to be a factual statement” clause. Stephen Colbert’s commentary on this was, of course, amazing. (Daily Intel)

You Have to Listen to Donald Trump Talk About Iraq. Are people SERIOUSLY considering this man as a viable candidate for the presidency!? This is just… incredible. (Daily Intel)

Look At It. Seriously. What photographer thought this was a good idea? (Awkward Family Photos)

Five Reasons Keanu Reeves Should Be the Next RoboCop. The. worst. actor. alive. (Best Week Ever)

Taxonomy of Teas. So pretty! So much tea to adore! (Wendy Chan)

Barnes & Noble Classics. Yet another reason why Kindles aren’t that great. (Wolf Eyebrows)

Pierre Trollier and His Tiny Sheepdogs. Even if you don’t like dogs, I dare you to deny that these tiny Pyrenean French sheepdogs are amazing. They’re the size of your average terriers and they OWN these sheep. Just watch that little dog keep a whole flock of sheep stopped at a stop sign. Just do it. (Three Border Collies)

Famous Authors and Their Dogs. Jill Krementz’s collection of photographs of writers and their dogs. (New York Social Diary)

A Girl and Her Room. A stirring and interesting portfolio of teenage girls and their bedrooms. Photographer Rania Matar jumps between Massachusetts and the Middle East and the distinctions–and similarities–are compelling. (Rania Matar)

Thoughts

– The only place you can go on the Internet and not read nasty comments–literally, the ONLY place–is The Daily Puppy. For realz. There are about 200 comments with every puppy and everyone just says a variation of the same thing: “Eeeeeeeee, you are so precious I want to EAT YOU UP!!!” or “OMG you CANNOT be this CUTE!!! LOLZ :-D.” Stuff like that. It’s comforting, in this vitriolic world of totally crazy and aggressive online commenters; dare I say, it is a breath of fresh virtual air.

– Thanks, Twinings! I learned how to pronounce “rooibos” tea. Want to know? It’s “roy-BOSS.” Now I won’t sound stupid when I get it at the Tea Bazaar.

– I want to be friends with the cool girls at work.

– I am going to walk home tomorrow from work. This is because Obama is coming for a visit (stumping for Tom Periello), and all of the roads are going to be shut down near our house. He’s coming to speak at the Pavilion, which we can see from our bedroom window. We want to go hear him, but I’m worried I’m going to miss it. According to Google Maps, it’s going to take me 1 hour and 7 minutes to walk home. Adventure! I’m actually kind of looking forward to it.

– Have I mentioned that I can’t wait to see my family?

– Confession: I probably look at the “Pets” section of Charlottesville Craigslist and/or the Charlottesville SPCA once a week. Just to tempt myself with the love I can’t have.

– Hannah and I talked about Japan last night again at The Local and my longing to return was reinvigorated. I think I’d like to live there for a year. Teach English, maybe? We’ll reevaluate this plan after Guion gets his degree.

– Coworker: Calling yourself Jim Halpert would be inaccurate. We are not that cool.

– Hear me, ye Interwebs: I am NOT PREGNANT.

– I kind of want to be Very Mary Kate for Halloween. Anybody know where I can buy a sweet blond wig?