Walking New Streets

Yesterday was an absurdly gorgeous day for January.  I contemplated going to the new skating oval on the Commons (incidentally a triumph of the democratic process: the skating oval was initially built as a temporary structure for the Canada Winter Games last year, and left open to the public for the rest of the season.  When it was announced that it was going to be dismantled, there was a public outcry to the effect that the citizens of Halifax would much prefer the city spent $400, 000 on making it a permanent feature of the Commons rather than building yet another highway exit ramp somewhere out of the city — and so they did.  I have yet to find out what happened with the highway), but since I don’t have any skates and haven’t in fact been skating in about ten years, I decided to go for a walk instead.

With my list in mind, I pulled out the city map to find a section of the peninsula I haven’t explored to wander around.  I’ve been highlighting streets as I go along them.  It’s an interesting process, because there are some roads I pass regularly or daily, others that I have walked at some point in the last year and a half but not since I started keeping track, and others I simply have never taken the opportunity to go down before.

I used to just walk straight up a road near me to the big cross-street a kilometre up, go over a block, and come back down.  This is fine when you’re walking to think and don’t want to be distracted by being mindful of surroundings, but hardly full of the spirit of adventure.  And indeed, there is a strange interplay between walking somewhere new and thinking of old and new things — I usually plot out my story — I notice gardens and trees, houses and people, when I am walking somewhere new, and yet at the same time am thinking of completely other places and people, figments of my imagination.  I get out of my mental ruts by walking new places.

Yesterday I walked up and down two small neighbourhoods quite close to me.  One is just on the other side of Oxford, the artery that bounds my own neighbourhood, four streets that I occasionally walk part of but never up and down as I did yesterday, deliberately going to the ends of each.  The other, a slightly more affluent part of the city on the other side of Connaught, I had never been to or noticed on the map before.

I saw some lovely gardens put to sleep for the winter and people walking dogs, and outdoor trees hung with baubles glinting in the sunshine.  I worked out a knot of my story.  I felt pleased I had gone somewhere new, found a delightful area to wander in.  What more could one ask of a list of things to do?

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