What’s in a Walk?

IMG_6435

A walk is much like a bike ride, except that you’re without wheels and therefore must go more slowly. Even a brisk walk has a relative slowness to it. This is where the statement “it’s all relative” becomes almost true. It isn’t all relative, but concepts such as “fast” and “slow” are. When people remark that the world is “getting faster and faster,” they are comparing the current state of things not only to their memory of things past, but to actual measurements of miles per hour, kilobytes per second, and such. So, in comparison to driving down a highway (where it has become dangerous to drive as slow as the speed limit), walking (at any speed) has a slowness worth relishing.

When walking, you rarely have to make split-second decisions; if there’s a turn or fork ahead, you have a good minute or more to contemplate it. People passing you will rarely crash into you, or you into people coming your way. So beyond staying alert and aware of your surroundings, you don’t have to worry much about accidents, wrong turns,  and aggressive traffic. (But do watch out for the surprise rollerbladers.)

This, in turn, means that you have time to look around and get lost in thought–a combination not always afforded. For instance, you might notice the way light falls on a rock.

IMG_6438

Or enjoy not only the sunset, but others’ enjoyment of it.

IMG_6447

Or catch a soccer game at an exciting moment.

IMG_6450

But of the thoughts themselves, what of them? They went all kinds of ways without scattering. I thought of my two years in the neighborhood, of the homelikeness of return, of the languages in the air, of the upcoming two years, of the book, of the Summer Institute, of a meal, of the setting sun, of a recent joke, of a spontaneous story, of regrets and happinesses, of the bike back in Hungary, of music, of poetry, of Torah.

I sat down for a while to go over my upcoming Torah reading at beloved B’nai Jeshurun and was struck by Deuteronomy 9:21:

כא  וְאֶת-חַטַּאתְכֶם אֲשֶׁר-עֲשִׂיתֶם אֶת-הָעֵגֶל, לָקַחְתִּי וָאֶשְׂרֹף אֹתוֹ בָּאֵשׁ, וָאֶכֹּת אֹתוֹ טָחוֹן הֵיטֵב, עַד אֲשֶׁר-דַּק לְעָפָר; וָאַשְׁלִךְ, אֶת-עֲפָרוֹ, אֶל-הַנַּחַל, הַיֹּרֵד מִן-הָהָר. 21 And I took your sin, the calf which ye had made, and burnt it with fire, and beat it in pieces, grinding it very small, until it was as fine as dust; and I cast the dust thereof into the brook that descended out of the mount.–

 

I have not heard anyone say (yet)—or maybe I have heard or read but forgotten—that this verse is the origin of Tashlikh, the custom of casting pieces of bread (symbolic of one’s sins) into the river on the afternoon of Rosh Hashanah–but the verb in the second half of the verse, “vaashlikh,” has the same root, and Moshe’s gesture seems to have a similar meaning. (People often point to Micah 7:18-20 as a Biblical source of the tradition; I have not yet heard anyone mention this.) I love imagining the fine dust of the golden calf being cast into the brook descending from the mount.

A walk has an aspect of that too; you cast not only your sins, but your worries and stray ponderings into the stream. The thinking gets clearer.

I learned yesterday that a white supremacist group had held an illegal flash anti-immigrant demonstration in the park on Saturday. They displayed a large banner that said, “Stop the Invasion. End Immigration.” On Tuesday, New Yorkers held a vigil in response. I do not know whether the rally itself was illegal–it depends on what took place and how many people took part. From what I gather, the demonstrators had no permit. But it is scary and sad to see Fort Tryon Park used as a broadcasting point for an anti-immigrant message, even if the demonstrators were acting within the law. It goes against the history, spirit, and fortitude of the park, whose beauty lies not only in its cliffs and flowers, but in the many people who live near it, who walk in it every day, who play, sing, read, and think in it, and in the generations of the neighborhood, its Jewish, Latino, and other immigrants, its people from around the world, its newcomers and old-timers, its ancestors and newborns, its lovers.

I think about thought–how it is not to be taken for granted, but thrives in places like Fort Tryon Park, where you can walk, absorb, and dream without worrying that anyone will tell you to go away.

I took all the photos on Sunday, July 29, in Fort Tryon Park. The quotation of Deuteronomy 9:21 is courtesy of Mechon Mamre.

Previous Post
Leave a comment

1 Comment

  1. Preview of a Walk | Take Away the Takeaway

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: