Last week I went on a 7.72 mile walk. I chose not to write my blog until today. I had headed to Old Town because I wanted to have a little bit of good cheer. Old Town makes me happy. Getting pleasant salutations first thing out of my car by Chad Jordon, the owner of Cravings Gourmet Popcorn, makes me happy. Walking the river trail makes me happy. One of the reasons I went to Old Town was I was creating a photo of myself for a project a group of #lovelansing folks were doing for a friend; a good friend. She had recently been diagnosed with a rare form of breast cancer. It broke my heart to think about all she had been through and all that she was going to go through. I needed this picture to be in a good and happy place.
After taking my photo to my satisfaction, I started my walk. I had a destination to the north. I would get off the river trail at the Turner Dodge Mansion and walk Grand River to MLK. There was a neighborhood in the North West corner I needed to get to. If I had the energy I would walk Filley to Turner and back to my parked car in Old Town. I didn’t know how far it would be but I was prepared for a good walk. As I walked and after I got home I decided that this walk made me realize a few things I was thankful for. Since tomorrow is Thanksgiving I thought that very appropriate. So here is my City Saunter list of things I am thankful for.
I am thankful to have made friends with an incredible, active, energetic and creative group of people. This is a group who is willing to take ridiculous, funny, spirited and creative photos of themselves doing crazy, happy, inspiring things to send a positive, hopeful message to our friend who started chemo treatments today. The printed book of these images was 50 pages and was presented to her yesterday.
I am thankful that I have the ability and stamina to walk 7.72 miles. I am thankful I don’t have injuries that keep me from walking. I know many who can’t.
I am thankful on my walks to be on streets that still produce such vivid memories of my childhood.
I am thankful to live in the Lansing area. My family is here and my husband’s family is here.
I am thankful to my friend who started cancer treatments because she gave me the courage to get tested myself and finally get some peace of mind. I had been putting it off for almost 10 years.
I am thankful for Old Town, because I love it there.
I am thankful for Lansing’s River Trail because it’s the heart of Michigan’s Trails.
I am thankful for Lansing’s rivers even if it stinks sometimes, it’s so pretty!
I am thankful for life and trials and death because it breaks the norm and forces growth.
I am thankful for friends who have supported this project and me.
I am thankful for family for loving me with all their imperfections and despite my own.
I am thankful for my faith because without it I feel I would be so broken I couldn’t move.
Apologies for the typo!
Tomorrow I will be thankful for a great meal cooked by my husband’s mom who is an amazingly loving and kind person.
I am thankful that I can laugh and be happy and trust that even something really bad can be turned into something good.
Yesterday was the first Wednesday of the month, which means I was scheduled to provide event photography for MarketLansing. This month is actually my one year anniversary as “Official Event Photographer” with this group. My in kind donation allows me to come and join an incredibly talented group of small business owners, small business marketers and self employed business owners who have to wear all the hats. It’s a wonderful mix of people from many walks of life. I’ve enjoyed early morning coffees, Lugnut games, and brunches at the Lansing Country Club. Yesterday’s meeting was scheduled to meet for the first time at the newly dedicated Old Town Marquee, which was recently purchased by Rizzi Designs, another Market Lansing sponsor. As I drove into Old Town I was a bit later than I had hoped. However, when I checked the doors they were firmly locked and the sign said closed. Until about a week ago, when something like this happened, I would need to call my husband and ask him to check my Facebook pages to see what I was missing. But now, I have my own fancy 21st century phone and was able to look and see that the time had changed to noon (which is normally when it’s scheduled anyway, so it was kind of my fault). So I had an hour. To the north of Old Town there are a few streets I had not walked yet. My friend Rebecca Eldridge, who is the president of Market Lansing, had requested an urban garden from the Land Bank. My plan was to walk it when she and her husband, David had begun their gardening. The plot she was given, however, ended up being larger than she thought she could work and she was unable to proceed with her garden. So the area sits unused.
As I walked past it I had quite a few ideas come to mind for the little plot of land; park, sunflower garden, community garden, picnic area. I wonder sometimes how things get going to make these projects excel. Is it a conversation over coffee or drinks? Is it a series of answered questions? What were the steps that helped make the raspberry garden get planted south of Kalamazoo? So now I wonder, what does it take to get something in this northern Lansing vacant plot of land? What’s the first step? I wonder.
She was late. Her intern said her council meeting had run late but she was on her way. I didn’t mind much, it was very sunny out and I enjoyed waiting in the sun. Out the back door of the entirely too small office for the South Lansing Community Development Association, I watched as an intern and an Americorp worker quickly worked to lash down the new hoop house flaps from the strong winds of hurricane Sandy.
Within minutes my ride arrived with similar hurricane force as she checked with her intern, checked her computer, freshened up and prepared for her ribbon cutting ceremony scheduled later that day. As we jumped into her car, with a glint in her eye and an equally bright glint off her diamond stud in her nostril, she looked at me and said; “So, why are you discouraged by the south side? “
To say Kathie Dunbar is a straight shooter is an understatement. It’s more like she unabashedly gives everything she does her heart and soul. I first met Kathie at the Mid Michigan Addy Awards in 2009. She was our table mate as well as our emcee for the night. At Ignite 3.0 she came out on stage at the Knapps building with a life sized cut out of Larry Page, CEO of Google in hopes to promote Lansing as the recipient of Google’s Fiber to Home give-away.
In 2011 before performing her often raunchy comedic skit for Earth Day’s “Laugh with a Purpose”, we sat in the Temple Club’s basement chatting over donated Carraba’s baked ziti.
It’s her exuberance that makes her great at everything she does, whether it’s standup comedy, city council Vice President or Executive Director of South Lansing Community Development Association. She’s a good person for Lansing and she’s a great person to know. So when Kathie invited me to do a drive along on the south side so she could show me what she’s been up to, I definitely said yes.
We started by checking out the newly created pathway, which was having its ribbon cutting ceremony that day. Now, this isn’t your typical sidewalk. In fact it’s not a sidewalk. It’s an 8 foot, asphalt path for walkers and bikers that travels from Mt. Hope to Jolly Rd. on the east side of Waverly Rd. Being that it’s a path and not a sidewalk (very similar to Hawk Island/Scott’s Woods) the city is required to maintain it and it will not be an additional burden to the home owners.
The layout of the path actually adds quite a lot of style to the homes situated along the pathway. Today I walked a chunk from Holmes to Mt. Hope and found it very pleasant. It meanders away from the busy road and the breadth allows passing walkers to graciously pass each other without the uncomfortable closeness that other Lansing sidewalks create. The second phase of this urban pathway will be an off road path from Aurelius along Jolly and will greatly advance the mobility of the walking and biking community for this south side region.
Our next few stops were multiple urban gardens. One large garden area was exclusively used by community refugees who were desperately in need of the growing space. Even this late in the growing season, it was evident the growing ability of this group. With this new area for growing they would no longer need to trek miles to get to useable land. It is now, literally, in their backyard.
As we drove, Kathie outlined many of the complications with the south side area. And just for the record the south side is pretty much anything south of I-496. It’s a very large and diverse section of Lansing; almost 2/3 of it in fact. It has the largest green space of the city, the fewest “historical” areas (which means it doesn’t receive the incentives of other areas for rebuilding and advancement), and a high concentration of commercial space. So if it was your job to advance this area, it could be quite challenging. Lucky for this area Kathie likes a challenge. And that’s no joke.