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.
It’s around this time of year I start noticing those who begrudgingly reside in Michigan. They greatly enjoy the temperate springs, lavishly sunny summers and moderately warm falls. However when winter comes they absolutely loath the cold. It’s hard for me to understand this. I feel the temperate spring only seems so because of the frigid winters. Then the moderate fall can only exist and cause so much excitement because we all know what’s right around the corner. A true Michigan winter is the gauge we use to extract the gifts of the other seasons. I love Michigan winters; love them. I love the snow. I love the winter sports. I love the bulky clothes and furry boots. I enjoy the warming drinks and romantic fires. I love walking outside and hearing the cold; the snow crunching, the tree branches chinking together, the air forming physically around you. It feels clean and sanitized. It’s amazing. I also enjoy walking my walks in the winter. I often get asked if I walk year round and yes I do. The winters are some of my favorite walks. I find these winter walks to be filled with peace and tranquility as I am often the only walker. Even today, as I walked a very urban neighborhood the loudest noises came from birds. I only came across one pedestrian, an elderly man who was walking to the bus stop. I offered pleasantries as I waited to cross the street and we both extended hopes of staying warm when the cold snap finally arrives this weekend. We haven’t had a true cold snap in over 2 years. If all works out as planned this deliciously cold winter will create the most abundance of flowers in the spring.
I am usually not a procrastinator. I tend to get things done as quickly as I am able. When I was in school I would sit on the bus, knees propped up on the seat in front of me, homework on my lap. It would be completed by the time I got off the bus. Yes, I was that type of girl. My walking for the months of November and December was anemic. It began with a single day delay, which then led to a week of deference. This provided the base for a couple more weeks of inaction. Ultimately I would look back and realize I’d put off walking for almost a month. This hiatus was unintended yet there it was. I had planned to do quite a bit of walking over the winter break; so much walking that I had hoped to complete this project this spring. Ambitious but I thought it would be feasible. Recently, though, I’ve had a change of plans. This change was not entirely because I didn’t think I could get it done, because I think I could. This change happened because I had a meeting with an art gallery manager. Amy Wellington is the new creative manager at Art Alley. Art Alley is located in REO Town and provides a non-traditional studio space for local creatives to display their art. I had thought that having a gallery presentation of my City Saunter photography that corresponded to the completion of this project would be a wonderful way to bring it an end. After speaking with Amy and Diane Wilson, the out-going Creative Director, they not only loved the idea of my project but would be delighted to showcase my photos; in October. Sometimes, what you are offered in life works out a lot better than what you had hoped for. This new schedule gives me the opportunity to not rush the last sections. It allows me time to put together my strongest pieces. It will also allow me the time to find sponsors to pay for this display. I will be coming up with some creative activities and sponsorship packages to make this a worthwhile venture for anyone willing to donate. After three full years of working on this grand idea to walk all the streets of Lansing, I will reach the end October 1, 2013.
Contact me if you are interested in being a sponsor for my Art Alley Exhibit.
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.
When I lived in Richmond, Virginia from 1992 until 1996 we often experienced these summer days of excruciating and unbearable heat. It would generally start the third week of July and run the second week of August. Sometimes it was all of July and all of August. We would have record 100 degree days for a week and more days of the month in the 90’s than in the 80’s. It was incredibly similar to what Lansing has been experiencing this summer. Also taking into consideration the lack of rain and this summer is a record breaker on multiple fronts. Summer can be frustrating in many respects. The kids trade in their perfectly scheduled routines for late nights, not so much late mornings and infrequent RRR. Despite great hopes every summer to continue with somewhat of a scholastic menu it somehow always goes down the drain. Soon the day in and day out guilt gets ever greater that I am not spending nearly enough time creating fun activities with my kids. So today I was going to change that. Yes, I knew the high for the day was supposed to reach 90, once again. My thinking was if I got us out early enough we could return before it was too bad. Somehow, though I found myself forcing the twins to shower and barely getting them into the car before 2 p.m. It was already 86. It’s okay I thought, I was planning to stop at a park. A park always makes everything okay. We parked at McDonalds on Larch. I bought them each $1.00 ice cream cones (didn’t these use to be $.25??) and an ice tea for myself. Then we headed east through the neighborhood. At first it was not too bad. I could tell after one block though that the twins weren’t going to put up with too much walking. After going around one block I decided to head straight to Gier Park Elementary to let the kids play. Even though this area has two schools, a community center, a baseball field, two additional parks, and a BMX track there was hardly anyone out there. The kids played a little as I took some photos like the 4 square area that I actually remember playing on when I was their age. Without many trees we quickly became over hot. The twins tried to enjoy themselves but I could see the fatigue setting in. They had eyed the other park to the north and wanted to try that one out too. So we made our way through the baseball fields.
I remember as a young person riding to these fields in the summer. Some of our friends would be playing there and it was a great place to socialize. Not today though, as there was no one there.
The parking lot was scattered with a few parked cars which always makes me wonder, what are those people doing? There was one couple that drove in and it was quite obvious what they were doing. I tried to not draw attention to them. At this park the twins quickly scaled a 6 foot fake rock. Once on the top, my just learning to read 6 1/2 year olds began reading the words they could make out; “suck my…”; oh my!! It was time to move on.
I suppose graffiti cleaning has been cut out of the budget years ago. By now Ellie is dragging. Her face is as pink as her shirt and I knew getting back to the car was going to be a challenge. We passed the BMX track and watched three young guys run the track once.
I suppose it’s too hot for even riding bikes. We crossed 27 (Larch for the non North Side folks) and took a non walked road back to the car. Ellie insisted I was making them walk 10 miles. It ended up being almost 2 miles on a 90 degree day. Now I know why they call it dog days, as all we’ve done since getting home is lay around the house. It’s a sad, sad summer when it’s even too hot to play.