Some people hibernate in the winter.
I am largely a cave-dwelling creature in Washington’s swampy summer.
I get bear-like, moving as little as possible.
Oh, I do my yoga most days, maybe hoop to something on Netflix in the cool of my living room. (Since I last blogged, I’ve completed the Mad Men series, and seen some gorgeous movies including Biutiful and Miral, which I’d highly recommend. But know that I will pretty much see anything Javier Bardem is in. )
But generally when it gets above 90 in DC, the humidity makes the air heavy, and breathing difficult, so I don’t get in my few miles daily.
Since I don’t own a car, and am too chicken-shit to bike in the city, I have to walk on the hottest days, at the least to and from the metro or the market. I probably still log in a mile or so on my “slow” days.
But this isn’t nearly enough to do what walking does for me, of which the physical is only a pleasant side effect, such as happiness when you do a job well. When I was a kid, the only thing that would soothe my anger taking brisk strides and going as far as my feet would take me, as though they would take me out of the working-class world of wounded refugees which was home. It would sometimes; I’d walk tree-lined streets of sanitized and quiet houses, where I imagined hushed tones and Vivaldi over dry martinis. But my escape route was just as often surrounding streets of factories and commercial bakeries, pasteurization plants and cemeteries. I wanted to see how people lived and ate and worked and where they settled down after death.
St. Augustine said all problems could be solved by walking; Nietzsche claimed all good ideas came from it; even Thoreau wrote about the flow of his thoughts once his legs moved.
I can’t think very well when I’m forced to sit still for long spells, can’t work out simple things such as next steps or more complex emotional dilemmas. So the last month with its sticky-heat has been a lesson in letting things unfold as they will, with rather minimum intervention on my part.
Sometimes, things work out much, much better this way — even though they may be slow for my taste.
A friend of mine has a style of dating she calls “slow walking.” She only practices it with people she’s very interested in. As you might guess, it involves an extended courtship with restrained physical affection.
That’s never been my forte in love. When I’ve tried to take things slow, I’ve wound up cultivating roller-coaster friendships with men whose slowness was more a sign of uncertainty rather than deliberation. Retrospectively, these guys were probably strong “S” types in Meyers-Briggs, super concerned with the facts. They were waiting to collect as much as information before deciding if they were interested in romantic pursuit.
I even wrote a short poem about it a few years back:
When the city caves in
I head to Church Street
circle around a labyrinth
embedded in concrete
across the street from Iraq’s
embassy, cabs careening
by pedestrians bound
for stiff drinks. My sole
floats, then touches down
Each measured step releases
my edge. I return to a life
that stops briefly
at twilight when a man
who might have been my lover
told me he wanted to take it
slow just as I was ready
It’s not that I’m against slowness in romance. It’s just that I’ve come to believe that the heart immediately and completely knows. The mind may choose slowness, but if the heart is slow to warm up, the flames of love are likely elsewhere.
Ironically, I again find myself slow walking (being slow walked?) — but this time, with a man who possesses an open heart. I don’t know if I would have gotten into it at all had it not been for the fact that we were involved briefly when we were young, and on the same continent. Programs like skype and gmail video chat has meant that we can sense each other’s moods, and I can play a type of charades when I forgot how to say something in Spanish, and he doesn’t know the word in English. In a way, our conversations have progressed not unlike a series of dates, at first the more formal getting-to-know-you conversations. Last week, we spoke when a nap was calling, and it was achingly sweet evading sleep, me lying down with one eye open, cat snoring by my feet on the futon, his voice floating from my laptop nearby.
If I am lucky, when the leaves dance into colors before they die, I will cross an ocean and walk for hours in an ancient capital under starlight, alongside coliseums and fountains, with him at my side.
Until then, I am grateful for the cooling gift of late summer storms, making it possible for me to figure it all out, even with the summertime lesson of not needing to do a damn thing about it.