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Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Extra! A coronavirus bonus: Walking to the mailbox

Coronavirus

TIME becomes time

A “wilderness” vista in Allouez during a walk. (Warren Gerds)

ALLOUEZ, Wis. (WFRV) – Walking to the mailbox used to seem farther away than it does now.

Then I noticed a lot of people in my neighborhood out walking.

More and more.

Single walkers.

Couples of all ages.

Couples with a stroller.

People with dogs.

People with dogs and a stroller.

Everybody gives other walkers a wide girth, more than they used to.

Some wave.

Some say “Hi” as they pass.

People who stop to chat stand at a distance.

It’s not as if the streets are teeming with throngs of walkers, but many are newbies.

Walking my dogs is my thing in good weather – a few long blocks and back is all.

But I never used to think of walking to the mailbox.

Too far.

Streets to cross.

Traffic to watch out for.

Thoughts of “pedestrian right of way” becoming THUD.

Blocks and blocks to trudge.

TIME.

Time chewed up to simply pay a bill or two.

So I’d hop in the car and zip to that closest mailbox.

If I’m not driving to anyplace else, it’s seven minutes there and back.

When I walked to the mailbox the first time, I felt I accomplished something monumental.

“This is really something,” I thought. “All this exercise and good for my body and salve for my soul.”

The next time, I timed the round trip: 36 minutes.

“That’s all?” I thought. “How measly.”

All the steps, working up a bit of a sweat, getting the breath going – the time that seemed like trudging and trudging and trudging felt more like an hour, minimum.

Now 36 minutes doesn’t seem like enough.

Funny how the coronavirus COVID-19 has changed some things.

TIME has become time in the case of my walking.

So I tack on larger loops to my walks to and from the mailbox.

Sometimes I find streets I never knew existed.

Some people’s houses are secreted away in neighborhoods.

I see extensive efforts at gussying yards and gardens seen from the street, more than usual this spring – lots of handsome and/or pretty effort.

Some houses have tucked-away spots in their yards that go on and on past the view of passing traffic.

One loop of my trips to the mailbox serves as a nature walk as it passes near the East River. One day in the urban wilderness, a deer casually groomed itself and munched foliage. It nonchalantly watched me approach – nonchalant because it saw I was safely on the opposite side of a slough.

A deer leisurely munches in a wilderness area in Allouez. (Warren Gerds)

The “wilderness” walks remind me of John Muir. He walked 70 or so miles from his home in Marquette County to the University of Wisconsin-Madison. America owes its national park system to that walker hungry for learning.

Other loops take me past the “whoosh” of traffic close to the sidewalk – not a comforting feeling.

One of those loops passes a cemetery that I had never walked past. Driven past, never walked. I didn’t whistle in passing (that’s a nod to an old superstition) and felt comforted by not knowing any names on the gravestones near the sidewalk.

And then there was one.

I stopped. I remembered he was a musician and a teacher. I saw his face and aura again. He led a variety of bands. Was known.

Way back when, he kicked me off school grounds because I, on my day off from work, was shooting baskets at the basketball hoop in the parking lot. Student envy, he said. He was nice enough about it – telling a guy with a mane of blond hair and scruffy tennies and a shaggy T-shirt that the place was off limits.

We eventually got to know each other, and I wrote about him in the newspaper. Funny how the world turns sometimes.

That was a pleasant pause, a walk down memory lane.

I also realize from my walks to the mailbox that I now know more about where I live.

It has taken the coronavirus and Safer at Home for me to take the time.

Maybe in the future the walk to the mailbox will again be a waste of time.

Right now, it’s not far enough because of all there is to discover.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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