Monthly Archives: September 2013

Scared

csIMG_5459There wasn’t anything different about the walk. I found a safe place to park, unloaded my gear (water, camera, maps, a little food), and began walking another south side neighborhood. However the deeper into the neighborhood I got the more trepidation I had. I had no true reason for it. My “rules” for a safe neighborhood were all met; objects left out in yard (no fear of stealing), no trash (invested homeowner), and nice cars (good wage earners). There wasn’t even anyone out to cause me to feel the anxiety I was having. The farther south and east I walked the greater my apprehension grew. As I walked the neighborhood was changing. The houses became smaller; much smaller, and there was obvious deterioration of the homes. At one point I even called my husband on the verge of tears asking if something had happened at home. I could not get rid of this feeling of fear. I kept walking, being very alert to my surroundings even though no obvious threat was apparent. A few days ago I was having a walking interview with Mary from the Lansing City Pulse. We were talking about scary streets I still need to walk. As we walked south on MLK heading towards Cavanaugh, I pointed across the street to a road called Mary. It’s Cavanaugh on one side and Mary on the other. If you take that street to the end it dead ends into a dirt driveway which used to be my Grandma Nina’s house. I told Mary one time we had visited and someone had shot out every car window on the street. As a child that kind of news is petrifying. To my grandma it was just another day in the neighborhood. It was in her neighborhood that we didn’t walk around; we didn’t really leave her house. Those stories had stuck with me and now as I turned the corner and found myself on Richmond Rd, my grandma’s old road, I realized I had walked from my pleasant, quiet neighborhood right into one of the neighborhoods I feared the most. I pressed on. I still had no true reason to be afraid, not one person caused me any concern. In fact, I think throughout this entire walking I’ve only felt real fear brought on by another person one time and even that was my feelings and not anything the other person said or did. I kept walking, telling myself once I’m done I don’t need to walk this again. I prayed too and had a few friends messaging me on Facebook that elevated my mood. Within a small amount of time I had walked the entire area and the feeling of despair completely left me. I walked a total of 10.65 miles in this area. I ended my last miles over by Waverly Rd. On this last mile I walked passed an elderly couple picking apples off their abundantly healthy tree. They were perplexed by what to do with them all. The woman asked if I would like some. I hadn’t eaten lunch yet and said yes. She handpicked 4 for me. I spent the last part of my walk feeling really thankful, munching on my apple and happy I had fought the urge to give up. csIMG_5449

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Ten Day Countdown

csIMG_5252I have just over a week to complete this project, prepare for a gallery exhibit and also continue all my regular work. I took on a photography project and am shooting the “It’s a Breast Thing” on October 1. The day after my gallery opening I also am leading the Scott Kelby Worldwide Walk in REO Town. Last weekend I hosted Peace of Lansing and thought, once that’s done I really can concentrate on City Saunter. Sometimes I laugh at my schedule. I keep thinking, when that’s over I will have so much free time I won’t know what to do with myself. Yet after each event/shoot/project something else gets added to the calendar. I like it that way.csIMG_5264Yesterday I went for a 6 mile walk with a Lansing City Pulse writer. She has been covering my project for about two weeks now, including a sit down interview and our walking interview yesterday. I love hearing people’s excitement and maybe awe when they become familiar with this city journey. It invigorates my excitement for it as well. Look for the article in next week’s publication.csIMG_5261Off to walk now. I really love walking in these cooler, fall days! 

The Walker

csIMG_5246I have roamed a very good chunk of Lansing so far. In miles it has reached over 430. In distance I have walked all of the streets north of the river, east of Pennsylvania and quite a few random neighborhoods everywhere else. I have walked the busiest down town areas and the most desolate country looking roads. I have passed hundreds, if not thousands of people; fellow walkers. I have noticed that many times us walkers are invisible. We are not noticed unless we are stepping out into the pathway of a motorized vehicle or stopping the traffic with the touch of one of those beeping electronic cross walk devices. We walkers notice each other, unless the other passer byer does not choose to notice, however there is then an obvious, head movement or random act of busyness that keeps eye contact to a minimum. After three years of walking however, I don’t allow such nonsense. If they have speakers in their ears I yell hello or wave. If they are trying not to look at me I continue to watch them until they sneak a peek at me and they in turn are presented with my smiling face and a jovial greeting. They always say “hi” back. To my joy many fellow walkers use these same techniques right back at me. The way that I have taken on this project is to walk streets. It’s on these streets that I meet the real walkers, the walkers that need to walk. I sometimes, when I stroll a quiet, peaceful neighborhood, I meet up with exercise walkers. Those are not the types I am referring too. Those type usual end up at a park or the river trail. The folks I mean are these types:

“Living much out of doors, in the sun and wind, will no doubt produce a certain roughness of character — will cause a thicker cuticle to grow over some of the finer qualities of our nature, as on the face and hands, or as severe manual labor robs the hands of some of their delicacy of touch.”

Walking by Thoreau

These are the ones I see, often. They walk because they have no other way to get around from point A to point B, whether point B is a bus stop, a grocery store or some other location. This type of person is not easy to characterize either. I’ve seen nurses, mothers, men in suits, and worn men & women like mentioned above.

csIMG_5120There is a freedom to walking; that is true. There are places that someone on foot can get to that no one else can. There are intricacies seen that only someone walking by may notice. There is an art to walking but it seems to be a skill that few are doing anymore unless they have to.csIMG_5114 csIMG_5248 csIMG_5245 “I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art of Walking, that is, of taking walks, who had a genius, so to speak, for sauntering; which word is beautifully derived “from idle people who roved about the country, in the middle ages, and asked charity, under pretence of going à la sainte terre” — to the holy land, till the children exclaimed, “There goes a sainte-terrer“, a saunterer — a holy-lander. They who never go to the holy land in their walks, as they pretend, are indeed mere idlers and vagabonds, but they who do go there are saunterers in the good sense, such as I mean. Some, however, would derive the word from sans terre, without land or a home, which, therefore, in the good sense, will mean, having no particular home, but equally at home everywhere. For this is the secret of successful sauntering. He who sits still in a house all the time may be the greatest vagrant of all, but the Saunterer, in the good sense, is no more vagrant than the meandering river, which is all the while sedulously seeking the shortest course to the sea.”

Walking by Thoreau

Thank you for sauntering with me.

Doing 25

csIMG_5089Out of the last four days I have walked three of those days and traveled over 25 walking miles. I also have clocked some biking miles since I am using my bike to help me move around quicker after walking the streets I need to walk (it’s not cheating, I checked). These twenty five miles took me to the south eastern corner of Lansing. This very large area was south of Holmes, north of Jolly between Pennsylvania and Cedar. Then I used my bike to get to some straggler streets out on Miller and Aurelius. I rode my bike 7 more miles on top of the 9-11 mile walks. I am starting to get tired. Sometimes I feel bad about pushing through this quickly. I think it wouldn’t be my preferred method. However, I am still walking with the same interest to my surroundings that I’ve always had, I am just walking farther. When I first started in 2010 I was only able to walk about a mile (20 minutes) before I became winded and was ready to stop. Now I can easily walk 6-8 miles before I start having any aches or fatigue. In fact, today I only walked 3.66 miles and was frustrated that I wasn’t able to walk farther (it started raining). It has been about three weeks now since I decided I needed to step it up (pun intended). My goal was to walk 10 miles every day until I felt I had a really good shot at completing this walk about by October 4. Even though I haven’t met that goal I do feel I am making progress. The south side is very daunting with super long dead ends, high volume traffic streets and urban sprawl. If anyone is interested in some long walks, let me know! I would love to have an exercise partner.

These are some of my finds over these 25 miles of south eastern Lansing:

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A house totally decked out for U of M (I noticed their trash can was green and at first thought they must hate that they have any green on their property. But then I thought, it’s a trash can, they probably asked for that color; haha).csIMG_4704 csIMG_4705 csIMG_4706

Kendon School and Park; totally adorable!csIMG_4708

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This house:csIMG_5037

The River Trail with a path to get on at Willard (off Aurelius just south of Forest)csIMG_5041 csIMG_5051 csIMG_5056

The most south eastern neighborhood in LansingcsIMG_5097

Touring the Capitol

img_5019ajWhen I started this project almost 3 years ago I took on the physical process of touring every street of the Capitol city. I had no idea where this process would lead me. I had some guesses that I would see parts of the city I had never gone to before. I figured I would meet new people interested in my task. I thought maybe one or two media sources might find this project interesting. Never, ever did I think that I would, through this project, become part of so many exciting groups (Lunch with a Purpose, #lovelansing, MarketLansing, Crazy Geeks with Cameras, CCFF, Ignite, TEDx, DirtyFeat, Lansing Marathon Committee, Lansing Dragon Boat Committee), meet so many exciting people (way too many to name), and be invited to do amazing things. Yesterday, because of my City Saunter project, I was invited to go on a private tour of Michigan’s Capitol. I climbed, with a group of nine other people, every level of the Capitol to the top most windowed area during a two and a half hour exclusive tour.

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I recently read a post called “23 Things Every Woman should Stop Doing”. The second thing on the list was stop saying yes to everything. For whatever reason I had found that normally (pre City Saunter) I would say no to everything. I wanted to stay home and not exert too much energy. I turned down late night drives with my husband (too tired), going out with friends (too much work, too tired, cost money), I wouldn’t hang out without Pat (I feel bad when he can’t come out), or really anything fun. This project has completely changed my perspective. It forced me to go outside of my comfort zone in a way I had never done before. NEVER. I now talk to strangers. I smile at everyone. I say hello/bye to everyone I pass, all the time. I don’t even realize it anymore until I’m walking with someone and I am interrupting our conversation to smile and say hi to people we are passing. I’ve gone on radio stations and television stations. I’ve been on the upper floor of the Boji Tower. I climbed onto the roof of Kathie Dunbar’s van to get a photo of Art Attack and when that wasn’t good enough we went to the roof top of another tall building across the street to get the photo. I’ve been on top of the Knapp’s building at night. I paddled a Dragon Boat. I planned an event inside an airplane hangar. I created a new event for peace. I’ve walked 400 miles of city streets. Now, I’ve climbed to the top of the state Capitol building.

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I don’t feel that I am anything special. Three years ago I was a stay at home mom with twins starting kindergarten and two sons in college. I was dabbling in photography and had a degree in psychology with neither landing me a full time career. I was wallowing in my situation; anticipating the sadness I would have with my kids all gone. Then this project came to me like a gift from God. I didn’t think I could do it but instead of saying no, I said let’s do this! For three years now I’ve walked, smiled, talked, interviewed, photographed, blogged, volunteered and journeyed through this city. Yesterday I was able to view it all from the tippy top of our Capitol building.  What an amazing journey I have been on. And all of it began with a one mile trek around that very same Capitol almost three years ago.

I have more photos on my Flickr Account

And also on my website

Remembering to be Thankful

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Today’s journey took me by many of my favorite things. The funny part of it though, was that I didn’t know they were favorite things until I was there. I’m determined to finish this project by my gallery exhibit date and after an honest look at my map, I came to the conclusion that at the pace I was going I wasn’t going to finish. I decided to set into motion the attempt to walk 10 miles every day. Yesterday I walked 9.64 and finished off an entire area on the east side. I only had one more area that remained north of the rivers so I decided to complete that today. By attempting to walk large sections at a time it gives me the opportunity to really take in all of the surroundings. I think I might even like these type of walks better as I get a fuller picture of the area.

I parked my car off Saginaw at a city parking area. It sits on the river trail and I wanted to have access to it since I was using my bike today to get around quicker after I walked what I needed to walk. My area that needed to be walked was Malcolm X St. by Cooley Gardens. I needed to walk that entire stretch all the way to the west border and finish off that neighborhood. I’m getting pretty good at gauging distances and I guessed it wasn’t much more than 5 miles. It turned out to be 5.52.

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I rode the trail to Michigan Ave and took a pit stop to drop off something at the Greater Lansing Visitors Convention and Bureau and stop by the 911 memorial.  I had missed the actual ceremony but caught the first bell ringing representing the first airplane strike twelve years ago. I was deeply touched by the professionalism of our city officials and service people. I realized instantly that their presence around me always makes me feel safe.

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After taking the shots here I quickly made my way to my walking place. This area isn’t the easiest to get to and honestly I didn’t even know it existed until I started this project. This was what I had to say two years ago! Located on this one block is the Scott Sunken Garden, The Michigan Women’s Historical Center and Cooley Garden. A little farther down the block is a dedicated plaque to RE Olds. What an extraordinary history Lansing has.csIMG_4646

csIMG_4650I continued down the entire section of Malcolm X St. thinking to myself that this wasn’t a good part of town. The funny thing was, it was! I had no issues. I walked by folks that waved, smiled and even stopped me to chat a little. It was very friendly. I was, once again, pleasantly surprised by my inaccurate perception of this area.csIMG_4661

csIMG_4656After my walk I rode my bike to the nearest entry to the river trail, which happened to be down Hazel Street in REO Town.

This was two hours out walking and biking and constantly being reminded at how thankful I should be that I live in the Lansing area.

My walk

Where the Flowers Grow

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Throughout the streets, as I weaved up and down and back and forth, the constant I found was the flowers. Almost every house has flowers.  Some had really elaborate gardens and landscaping including the most gorgeous rose garden walkway. Some only had a plant here or there. Then there’s the time that a flower just pops up out of the most unexpected place. It has come to me that this is the analogy of Lansing. I go to a neighborhood expecting a possible bad situation and even though I do witness poverty, uncleanliness, income disparities, and other “negative” aspects, I almost always find a flower growing. Sometimes literally, other times figuratively. Like today, as I walked, I saw many run down homes, but for each of those there were three that were being worked on. I also found quite a few empty houses either through foreclosure or vacancy. For each of those there were also a set of houses that had relaxation areas, play areas and other signs of use. Then when I made my way to an area that might cause me trepidation I see the most amazing thing. Straight ahead of me is a group of men wearing baby blue t-shirts. They are moving around in a yard. I’m too far away to see what’s really going on but there they are. This is good because it means a safe space. There are people there that I can feel safe being around. That’s not always the case. To the credit of this neighborhood I only felt unsafe once and I think they were more wary of me than I was of them. I get closer to the soft, blue shirted men and see that they are working construction type things.

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The signs say Tuesday Toolmen. They are bustling around cutting wood, measuring and working really well together. I pass by, but their presence made me want to see what they were all about. So I went back and asked what their sign meant. “We’re Tuesday Toolmen”, the one closest to me announces very jovially. He’s an older man, possibly retired; very charming and grandfatherly.  I like this group. He goes on to explain that they are a group of volunteers that use funds from the Greater Lansing Housing Coalition to help repair homes for low income residents. Then he goes on to say, “And we work on Tuesday and today is Tuesday!!” I ask if I can take their photos and I get the typical, “get our good side”, “don’t forget that guy”, and quite a few other retorts. They laugh and wave me off with a “have a great day”. I love seeing flowers grow in the most unexpected places.

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Some other “flowers”?

The Holmes Street School being converted to Lansing Technology Center

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Three Urban Garden Plots

A very large section of wild grapes growing on the fencing on Aurelius just east of this neighborhood

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Walsh Park

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Land Bank House

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To the South

csIMG_3723For the last three walks I have been trying to finish off the last area north of 496. Today I was able to accomplish that. It took me seven walks to complete. There is a pair of pink (maybe originally red) Converse tennis shoes hanging from the telephone cables. I walked under those 3 different times. And that’s how these walks go, back and forth, back and forth.

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For almost 3 years I’ve walked this way. I have reached a significant goal by completing all the streets north of 496. With maybe 2 more walks I will have everything north of the river walked. Soon it will be everything east or west of Cedar, or Pennsylvania. Or some other preset goal I created for myself. Another goal I got the wheel rolling on is completing the entire project by October 4. As of today I have walked 367.7174 miles. It hasn’t been quite three years yet. I wish I knew how many more miles I had left. That would really help me out. I asked my husband to honestly tell me by looking at my marked off map if he thought I could get it done by then. He said no. I wish it was one of those “so you think I can’t? Why I’ll show you!” moments, but I’m thinking he might have a point. I don’t give up very easily and I really don’t like to tell people that I’d do something and not do it. Do I think people won’t show up to my gallery exhibit if I haven’t gotten all the streets walked? No, but I would feel that I had let everyone down. So, I’m going to walk. I will attempt to walk as many miles as I can every day that I can. Today I got 5.52 done. I would like to do 10 miles every day until I at least feel like it’s possible to finish. However, I am also a mom of 7 year old twins, operate a photography business, and am putting on a peace event called Peace of Lansing on September 21, 2013. I really might need some inspiration (and possibly a shoe sponsor? Can someone get on that?).

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So if you see me out on the south side, give a little wave. I’ll wave back, I always do. I also might be planning some long walks, like eight hour or even longer so if anyone can come up with a way to use it to raise money for charity let me know. I was thinking of something like your business can pay you to walk with me for some time and then you can donate to your charity. Any takers?  Well let me know!

Here’s to finishing the journey!

My walks today: Willow area and South Side

Industrializing the West

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My plan was to walk for 2-3 hours and complete as much of the west side as possible. Yesterday I walked a mile in this Old Oakland Neighborhood. This was my fourth walk in this area. I had really hoped to have all the “north of 496” streets done by now, but that hasn’t been the case. This is my last section though and today was going to get most of it done-except I didn’t. I think today was the first time I really felt I might not get this project done by October 1. When I added up yesterday’s miles to the total I found I was just over 350. If there are a total of 410 miles of streets in Lansing then I should have 60 left. The only problem is that when I walk, I am often re-walking streets I’ve already walked before to get to the places I haven’t walked yet. How many miles of re-walks do I have? I don’t know. Therein lies the problem. I might have only 60 more miles, but I might have more like 80! Even 80, though, are doable. If I walk 6 miles in 2 hours, then I would need to walk 13 times, roughly. We still have 30 days until the gallery opening. That’s less than half. If I walk 6 miles every 2 days I can walk 80 miles! Today’s walk was supposed to be a 6 mile walk. Unfortunately my body didn’t cooperate. I was only able to walk about 2.6 miles before a hunt for a restroom began. I had hoped the West Side Park would be unlocked but it was not.  I would love to say that this hasn’t happened to me before while walking, but I can’t. In fact finding a rest room in Lansing is almost impossible. The Lansing City Market is really the only public restroom on the entire river trail. I’m really hoping that providing awareness for lack of city restrooms doesn’t become the legacy of this project. I suppose I could be known for worse things! 

Decorative Flowers at Padnos

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Unused rail stop on Sunset

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Blocked off open field owned by BWL

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My Walk today

Taking the High Road.

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I realized I was trapped in a learned stereotypical behavior. I don’t recall when the idea was given to me, but at some time in my youth I had been taught to fear High St. I remember the stories as a young person; people die there, you will get stabbed, they hate white people. I have no recollection of who told me such things, but I remember them. As I continue to walk my way through Lansing these memories, these urban legends and falsehoods seep to the top like cooked fat in chicken stock. When things are told to you by someone you trust, you believe them. It’s not until a new experience happens that contradicts that learned behavior that you relearn what you’ve thought to be true all along. If no new experience emerges then the old fabrications remain in place. This is what happened to me and High Street. I didn’t realize I was afraid to walk there until I realized I was creating excuse after excuse to not walk there. I finally took some time to figure out why. Then the memories came back. The stories I was told by the older kids whispered to the surface. The fears of my youth surfaced. Throughout this project when a non supported fear comes over me I try to change my perspective by thinking of positive things. I know that High Street had a street calming revamping. I was interested in seeing what had been done. I also know that Cristo Rey Community Center is located on High St. and they provide amazing services to the community including a health center, clothing and food. With this positivity in mind, I set out to walk High St. and like any person who’s ready to face her fears, I took along a buddy! My first attempt to walk this area I had made plans to walk with my friend Stephanie. We were only able to walk half of it but I remember turning to her on our way back and saying; “that wasn’t scary at all”. She laughed at me like I said the most ridiculous thing ever. She didn’t understand my ingrained fear of this neighborhood. On my second attempt to finish this street, I found myself alone. I parked at the north police precinct and again headed north. I walked the streets I had missed the first few times through this area. It often takes me 3-6 times to complete a neighborhood. I walked straight up High. I saw, much like the other streets I walk, people waving and saying hello, utility people out working on the street, residents working on their homes. Just like almost all of the other walks I have taken so far I found no reason to have any fear, in fact, this walk was quite enjoyable. It took me a very long time, but I have finally found a number of contradictions to those silly lies I was told as a child and I am very thankful I did. 

My Walk

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