A Traveling Man

I have taken up a new form of travel. It is called walking. I haven’t done this by choice. It happened when the piriformis muscle in my right buttock spasmed. Who knew I had one? I remember when it happened--May 26, 2013. The pain was incredible. That is the price I paid for a lifetime of sitting at a desk writing. Over the years my hip flexors—you can guess what  they are—grew tighter and tighter and that caused the gluteus to...well, it is like James Weldon Johnson’s song Dry Bones.

Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones.
Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones.
Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones.
Now hear the word of the Lord.

Toe bone connected to the foot bone
Foot bone connected to the leg bone
Leg bone connected to the knee bone...

That is why you will find me walking the streets of my neighborhood. I'm stretching those hip flexors that in turn are stretching those...well, like the song says.

Each morning I make a thermos of coffee. I plug in my earphones and I start walking to the accompaniment of Marcel Proust’s Remembrances of Things Past. I have been surprised to find that listening to Remembrances while walking is much more enjoyable than reading him by lamplight. Perhaps it is all those nature passages like the one in which he is about to leave the countryside for Paris and hugs the branches of a beloved hawthorn tree in tears, vowing always to love it since it has never done him any harm.

I found a pathway from one street to another through a complex of clapboard buildings that belong to Harvard University. Halfway through I discovered a tiny little park set aside for smokers. It is nothing more than a bench and a few wooden chairs. But at that hour it is always empty. I sit on one of the chairs, turn inward to the voice telling me about the mysterious Swann with his beaked nose, his high forehead and his schock of red hair. I sip the dark Vienna Roast coffee that I brewed myself in the way my wife taught me, she having learned from my son who was, in another life, an accomplished barista. The sunlight is bright but because it is not late, it is not too hot. It am bathed in a sense of contentment that I have not felt in a long while.  I am beginning to sound like second-hand Proust.

There is more than the satisfactions of solitude to be gotten from walking in the neighborhood. A nearby college is building an art institute on its property. This means taking a landmark church and moving it eastward a couple of hundred feet.  As I was walking past, someone had spray painted a sign on the side of the moveable church.  I took a photograph. I have added my own caption.


I would have missed this guerilla gem altogether if I had been in a car. Good for the artist.  It is, of course, unsigned.  Good for me for walking.

I expect to meet more people on these walks. Just this morning I met Auguste. He is the gardener who keeps the lawn of a dismal gray-stuccoed apartment looking like an emerald necklace. He nodded to me as I passed and was interested in the music I was listening to. When I told him that it was Proust’s Remembrance, he said, “That is a real classic.”

He wondered if I had read Camus’ La Chute or Le Peste. Auguste is from Brazil.  He speaks Portuguese and tells me that he read those books in high school.  How many American students read Camus, I wonder?

I am looking forward to tomorrow’s walk. Who knows what surprises it will hold?