34th Street is one of the busiest streets in this city which makes crossing it a bit harried at times. I was rushing to cross it on a lunch break one day and something in the middle of the street caught my eye. The crosswalk signal was counting down my time of safety so i followed its lead, but compelled by curiosity ran back, squatted to the ground and took a closer to look at what appeared to be a handwritten tile imbedded in the cement. With only a second left, i glanced quickly at the words and ran off wondering how many people had ever seen this message. Although the story behind the message in the street is more complex, I took away only the first few words…you must lay tile.
In contrast to the way I walk along 34th Street or anywhere near my office, i walk at a much slower pace around my home since my daughter has finally decided to walk. Yay! Even though this is already a cause to celebrate, I am also excited to discover a whole new way of walking. First, I find that I must adjust my pace to match the stride of someone under 36 inches. I also have to adjust my sightline because what is directly in her purview is not necessarily in mine. It often times takes us three times longer than usual to walk around the block, but it is worth it. What I lose in minutes is simply the letting go of the expectation and tension to move quickly in this fast-paced life. What I lose in quantity of time, I gain in the quality of that time.
My daughter brings me along to a mindful way of moving. She walks with careful examination of each step, scrutinizing a rock or something that has the shape of a rock to verify what is reality and illusion. She STOPS: feeling the textured surfaces of buildings and fences, saying hello and excuse me to the pigeons, asking the ants to come out and play, touching the flowers, and exalting their smell even when they don’t have one. She LOOKS at everyone and everything and acknowledges them as beings with whom she has something to offer, as well as receive. On a rare occasion, she even closes her eyes to FEEL the walk and simply LISTEN to the world. She is seeking connection everywhere, and craving discovery, reminding me that I want and need the same.
As adults, we are often walking with a purpose instead of the walk being the purpose. We look straight ahead towards the direction we are heading and miss the the joy of what’s literally in front of us. We can miss a person who’s looking right into our eyes. And in New York City, it has often been said that we never look up and walk with our eyes on the ground, and yet we still are blind to what’s under our feet.
When I exit the train station on my way home, my eye is always drawn to a small red scribble in the corner of the stair landing. It is a simple short red blip of an EKG reading that reminds me of the heartbeat of the streets. Next time you are with a child, sit next to them on the floor and try to see what they see. And next time you head out of your home or your office, try to forget where you were going and get lost. Look down, look up, look everywhere and see what you can find. The streets are truly alive and there is so much more there for you …
To practice your looking skills, walk along 14th Street next week for http://free.artinoddplaces.org
To discover more behind closed doors, check out OPEN HOUSE NY next week http://www.ohny.org
To look at art from a kid’s perspective, visit Jeff Koons’exhibit by October 18 http://whitney.org/Events?view=day&start=2014-10-18&event_category_id=232
For more on tiles in the street check out http://gothamist.com/2014/08/21/toynbee_tiles_explained.php#photo-1
For more on the pulse of the city, read about EKG at http://nautil.us/blog/taking-the-pulse-of-the-city-with-graffiti-artist-ekg
For some MS and HS Columbus Day discovery lessons, go to http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/article/web-hunt-christopher-columbus