I went for a walk outside late tonight. I usually feel better when I take a walk, but I don’t do it as often as I should. Sometimes I feel like I don’t have the time, but usually if I don’t take a walk I end up wasting the time some other way and don’t feel as good, and I’m less productive and present for the rest of my time.
There are a lot of things like this: walking, meditating, reading books or good articles off of paper, exercising, writing. I don’t choose these activities as often as I’d like to. I guess I’m choosing inertia or instant gratification over them. But taking a walk feels better than scrolling Twitter almost immediately. I’m not sure it’s gratification exactly that the temporary distractions offer. One thing I notice is that addicting interactions tend to fool you into thinking they’re only for a minute, or at least take you out of feeling the context around you, including the passage of time. This isn’t a good thing, but it is an easy thing.
In this case, I had been working from home all day and hadn’t left the house yet, but I was inspired to go for a walk while I was chatting on OKCupid with a woman who was going for a walk. I have Tinder and Bumble on my phone and I use OKCupid on my computer. So to me it’s a site, and to the woman I was talking to it’s an app. I notice some people say “this site” and some say “this app,” but as time goes on “app” has become much more common. It started as a correspondence culture, but now it’s becoming more of a texting/chatting thing. I’m not as good at controlling my time, flowing, and focusing with that kind of communication, but I’m trying to work more on coming to where people are and still keeping my internal focus.
Anyway, she mentioned she was her way back from a walk and that it was nice out, and I decided that I would do the same at some point.
I finished up some work, then took my keys and a rubber band, and I walked up to Prospect Park. It was drizzling, but barely. I went up to the park through Grand Army Plaza, then walked along the paved walkway to the left, on the east side of the park. I was only a couple hundred feet in when an animal crossed my path in the dark. I thought it was either a raccoon or a possum, but it didn’t have the possum’s stiffness, and then I could see it had a furry ring tail instead of that possum’s rat tail.
I immediately wanted to take a picture of the raccoon to share it with people. I thought it was exciting. I rarely see mammals bigger than squirrels on the loose in New York City. But I didn’t have my phone, or any other kind of camera, with me. And then I felt like I didn’t mind. I liked seeing it, and I could tell people about it later or just enjoy it.
There are all sorts of ways to experience things and communicate that experience, but shared or not, technology-intermediated or not, there’s something really fun and funny to me about the activity of seeing animals, especially when other people get excited about. I love things that break down so simply. There are a lot of animals out there. We want to see them, get a good look at them. I’ve seen some good ones in my day. My parents brought me on a lot of hikes when I was a kid, and whenever one of us spotted an animal we’d try to communicate it to the rest of the party without making noise. My mom was the best at it, and would get very excited and try to show with gestures what kind of animal she’d seen. My dad nicknamed her “The Spotter.” I’ve turned into a pretty good spotter myself.
I turned around and followed the raccoon for a while, and it went off in the woods to the east.
Down on the main field of the park, there was a young woman in a dress crossing the grass alone. The field looked very inviting, empty and well-lit by the night sky and the orangeish lights, but I didn’t want to walk down the hill and scare her, so I walked down the paved path to take the long way around to the field, giving her time to clear off the field before I entered.
On my way down, I saw another raccoon, standing in the middle of the path, staring up at me. The lighting was good enough that I could look it right in the mask on its face.
The empty field looked even better from the middle of it than it did from above. Some people were biking and walking around the paved paths above, but I had the field and the surrounding hills all to myself. Near one clearing of trees there were a few trash cans, and right in my path was a big empty plastic Arizona Iced Tea bottle. I love throwing things, and rarely get the opportunity to really let loose in New York. I threw the bottle toward the trash cans, and it carried a little better than I expected. I walked up to it, picked it up, and threw it again, this time getting it close enough to easily toss it into trash underhanded. Like a three-stroke golf hole.
I walked back across the field. The grass looked like it had been cut recently, and there was a little bit of that smell in the air too, but I’d never seen a lawnmower in Prospect Park. I didn’t think that through until I went home.
TANGENTIAL THOUGHT: Aaron Sorkin is a fan of the “walk and talk,” which never seems contemplative. In which TV shows do people just walk? I see it in Atlanta, the Sopranos, and Twin Peaks. Atlanta and the Sopranos both deal with depression.
TANGENTIAL THOUGHT TWO: I liked how Pokemon Go really brought out the joy of wandering around and spotting and finding animals. Technology can have bad and addictive properties, and sometimes these prey on us more than they nurture us, but I thought at least one phase of that game was a good and exciting thing.