There 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.
Sometimes I like those days where the schedule is chronologically challenged. Yesterday was one of those days. It started at about 4:15 a.m. when a text came through Pat’s phone letting us know our nephew had been born. It’s a bit hard to go back to sleep after that but I did try. Pat and I already had a few things on our plate that day but thought we could include a visit to the hospital quite easily. We eagerly got the twins on the bus and quickly got dressed for the day. Pat had a client that needed some computer updates on the south side and I had some streets I needed to walk. Now our schedule was: kids on bus (done), trip to hospital, meeting on south side, City Saunter walk on south side. I also had a lunch date with my favorite elementary school teacher, Cathy Colando Riley. We had finally agreed to a time and place weeks ago and I didn’t want to cancel that. That was at 1 p.m. in Okemos. By 9:00 a.m. Pat and I were in the car heading into town. We didn’t eat breakfast. We decided to stop at McDonald’s. We had coupons, buy one breakfast sandwich get one. We each could go in, use the coupon and take the extras to the hospital. So now our schedule was this: kids on bus (done), get ready (done), stop at McDonald’s, drive to hospital, drive to client on south side, drop me off to walk south side roads (about 1.5 I thought), get back home so Pat can work and I drive to Okemos to meet Cathy. After eating our McDonald’s sandwiches in the car we started heading into Lansing. Should we bring a gift? What would they like, flowers, candy, a soy smoothie from Biggby? All were great choices. On our route into town is Frandor. We already needed to stop at World Market for coffee beans because it’s Wednesday and on Wednesday when you buy coffee you get double punches; no, not to the face, on your coffee card to get a free 12 oz. bag of coffee. We use it to try the really expensive Jamaican blend or some such kind. So we decided to stop at World Market. So this is our morning so far: get kids on bus (done), go to McDonald’s and use b-1-g-1 coupon (done), drive through busy East Lansing to crazy Frandor (I refer to it as the 10th layer of hell) and stop at World Market for coffee and gift, drive to hospital, drive to south side (Dunckel and Jolly), drop me off in random parking area so I can walk, Pat goes to meeting, he picks me up, drive home and I leave to go to my lunch date with Cathy Colando Riley former Gier Park and Otto teacher.
Well, it’s 9:35 and World Market doesn’t open until 10:00 a.m. So we decide against the gift because driving into the 10th layer of hell, yelling at Pat for not turning onto a one way when he had the chance and then not having our store even open yet took about 20 minutes and I was a bit frustrated. A few minutes later after parking at the Sparrow parking ramp (I will need to come up with a catchy name for this place as well) we soon find ourselves on the third floor staring at the sign on the maternity ward wall that states: Visiting Hours 11:00 a.m. We needed to wait over an hour to see our new nephew. Fortunately for us a social worker over heard us talking and called the nursing station to see if we could visit early. Ahaaaa, we finally get a break! We stop at the nursing station, get the room number and sneak our way through the very quiet hallway. I gently tap on the door, open it a crack and let them know we’re here to see the new baby. Yippee! As with our timing with World Market we again were denied. Our sweet little nephew was about two seconds away from getting his own breakfast. Back to the waiting room Pat and I went. I was able to pass off the extra breakfast sandwiches before leaving though; finally success! So we wait. And we wait. About 45 minutes pass when the new daddy pops his head in and walks us back to the room. We had a quick visit and had to be off to our other scheduled plans.
We quickly make it out to the south side and Pat drops me off for my walk and he goes to his client. This part of town is not made for walking but I often find those areas more interesting. My first interesting thing was a goose. He was sleeping about 5 feet from the road, directly in my path. What would a goose do if I snuck up on him? I found myself laughing all alone on the side of the road at the idea of goosing a goose. I stopped and took photos a few times hoping my shutter would wake him up; it didn’t. I move closer and he’s still sleeping. I move a little closer and he’s still sleeping! I am now about 5 feet from him when he picks his head up, looks right at me and hisses. I hate that noise. So now I am stuck with speeding traffic on my right, a sloping pond on my left and a hissing goose directly in front of me. I wait until most of the traffic clears (it’s quite busy here) and move out into the road hoping by keeping my head down and not giving the goose eye contact he won’t attack me.I’m walking in the road, with my camera, laughing out loud, with fast traffic speeding towards me hoping to not get attacked by a drowsy goose!
For the next hour I continued on my sidewalk-less travels and finished off this entire south eastern edge. It was almost 3 miles and it was quite close to 80 degrees outside. I was quite sweaty and very flushed. It was getting very close to the time that I needed to be picked up to make it home in time to drop Pat off and leave for my lunch date with Cathy Colando Riley, one of my favorite teachers. We spent a couple of months learning all the songs on the “Chicken Soup with Rice” record in 5th grade. One of my most cherished memories. When my twins came home from school a couple years ago singing those songs I exploded with joy; not literally, but I was really happy. I had a copy of the CD I had bought for my older kids. They never got into it, but Evan and Ellie know every song and often play it as they go to sleep.
My phone vibrates. Yes, Pat is done! We meet back at the random parking lot and head back home. We do indeed make it back through the 10th layer of hell, passing World Market, knowing full well that we need to come back sometime that day to get our extra punch from our coffee purchase. At home Pat gets out and I even have a few extra minutes to change into dry clothes and race off for my lunch date with Cathy Colando Riley who looks exactly the way she did when I was in second grade and I told her I was a hypochondriac to which she said, “that’s a big world for a little girl”. And she looked the same way she did when she met me at the Calbery Awards ceremony in 4th grade where I won 3rd place city wide.
She definitely looked the same from when I use to get off my bus from Eastern High School and walk up to Otto to visit with her. I spent about an hour and a half catching up with her then headed home. I had about an hour to upload photos before the twins got off their bus. We would be returning to the hospital so they could meet their new cousin. We also stopped at World Market for that coffee and even stopped at McDonald’s again so the twins could have some ice cream for being good during the visit. At the end of the day we were happy to say we got it all done! And that 10th layer of hell? We drove through it 4 times yesterday. I think that’s a new record.
When snowfall and thunderstorms meet on a crazy night in mid Michigan it creates fog; dense, thick fog. I was so captivated by its etherealness I decided to go walk in it. My house sits in a bit of a gully, between multiple hills. I joke, but to get to my house from any direction you have to go uphill and then downhill. My walk to Meijer is literally uphill both ways and I’m not saying that in a Parks and Rec kind of way. It takes a while for the snow to melt around our house, even on a 50 degree day. Yesterday was no exception. All around my house and yard was this super thick fog yet as I drove to Lansing the fog became thinner and more sporadic. I realized the melting snow had ended any hope of walking and photographing the fog. However due to a few events there was still a very odd feel to this walk. The first was a horrific car crash that happened on I-496. The accident itself occurred at around 7:00 a.m., however as I drove past at around 11:00 a.m. the entire 5 lane highway was abandoned. The only thing on the highway was the 5 crashed cars and a completely burned out 6th car. Two police cars were positioned to block any car that might have made it onto the highway that somehow got through multiple road blocks further up. There were no movements. Had I not read about the crash on line I would have been really shocked by this scene. However knowing that a life had been lost in this tragic crash also left me feeling quite upset by having passed it.
found at the corner of Donora and Mt. Hope. The letter is written from a son whose father was tragically killed.
Then on my exit off the highway I came right up alongside one of the folks that ask for money. Whether their decision to stand there comes from true need or some type of scam, seeing them there often saddens me. I still get tears thinking about last Thanksgiving when our entire family, dressed in our fancy clothes, and joyously talking to each other about the great meal we were about to consume at grandma’s house drove by this woman on the side of the road. Her sign read; “Pregnant and homeless, please help”. It wasn’t so much what her sign said as it was the day in which she stood there. Here it was a holiday of thanksgiving, a day to be grateful. And here she stood all alone, in the cold. Didn’t she have family? Did she have no one to cook for her? The sadness overwhelmed me and I burst into tears. We drove back around the corner and my husband got out and handed her $5 after I insisted we do something. Maybe I played into the game. Maybe I should have had a stiff upper lip and told her to go learn to fish instead of handing her one. I couldn’t. I wanted her to know that someone cared. I wanted her to know that someone saw her and acknowledged her on this Thanksgiving Day.
So here again, I sat for a seemingly endless time trying to avoid the gaze of this man, praying for him and hoping he could find what he needed.
My final unusual event was actually a positive one. As I walked along my walk, finishing off sections of a neighborhood I mostly had walked before, disappointed by my inability to capture gorgeous, foggy photos, I found a hidden treasure. I’d heard of them before and had no idea I was sauntering my way towards one. Up ahead of me amongst a sea of browns and dismal grays sat a large mailbox, practically glowing in bright rainbow colors.
Except it wasn’t just any ordinary mailbox. It was a library! I had stumbled across a Little Free Library!
This little gem completely changed my mood. It reminded me quite a lot of my Finding Rainbows blog.
So today’s moral is; lift the fog. Look around you and find the joys, even the little ones. Be aware of those around you. Pay attention to those in need. Can you help? Did you try? Lift the fog and enjoy life! Grieve the losses as it makes you appreciate what you have all the more. And when something really great comes along, revel in your blessing then reach in and grab at it.
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.
I did my walk today. I dressed for the weather; shirt, sweater, winter coat, gloves and winter boots. The typical blustery wind was present but something was definitely missing; the snow. I walked on completely clear sidewalks; no icy patches, no previously worn pedestrian path and no imperfectly shoveled trails. The only evidence of any accumulated snow was a continuous line of debris left over from a sidewalk clearing, much like the sediment layer from a melted glacier. This time last year I was trudging through mid calf snow drifts, stacked tall with rock solid ice chunks created by multiple plows of the busy road.
MLK last January
This year? Nothing. I must admit, this lack of snow has me in a bit of a panic. I’m wondering if this is just a La Niña type event. Or is this the new Mid-Michigan? This might offend some, but I really hope it’s just a fluke!! I can’t imagine a winter with no skiing, no sledding or no shoveling. There would be no showing my kids the frolicking nature of animals as we use our sleuth skills to track their movements. There would be no snow ice cream, snowmen, snowball fights or snow forts. Every year when the snow is packy I create some sort of creature out of the snow. Ellie still brags about my snow whale. Would this tradition melt away?
Our front yard March 2010
Closing in the on 25th day of January with only a total of five paltry inches of snow is disappointing at the least, devastating at the most. How am I supposed to work off the Christmas weight gain without a few hours of skiing, sledding and/or shoveling each week? In Mid-Michigan we need the snow. No, really, we do. The sight of fresh, clean, white crystals falling from the sky lightens the heart and soul. It covers over a multitude of trash and other unsightly objects. It creates a blanket of purity across the land.
Was it the last part about purity?
All right, I understand. Not everyone LOVES the snow. Can we agree that it’s really pretty though?
I can live with that.
Trees in front of my Cooper Ave. house many years ago.
Our driveway in the Fall Blizzard of 2011 (November 30, 2011)
Once inside the towering tunnel of trees the loud city noises become muffled background sounds. The most audible sound comes from the birds twittering around and the wind blowing the tree tops far above our head. After walking the six blocks down Clifton Ave. from Pat’s childhood home we were at the entrance to Scott Woods. This park had back handedly gotten in on the Hawk Island renewal a few years ago. At the very end of Clifton Ave. sits this sentry cove; a beckoning preview of what sits within its treescape. Instead of the old dirt paths and rustic signs it once had the city has paved a walking path wide enough for two way pedestrian traffic. Well built bridges cover the slow flowing streams or even dried up riverbeds. There have been recent additions of directional signs leading walkers to their proper destination; whether it’s to Potter Park, MSU River trail, McGuire Park, the Soldan Dog Park or Hawk Island. Only in location does this new Scott Woods resemble the single file trails leading to a small gravel pit that Pat took me to while we dated twenty two years ago. The old air plane hangar is no longer there. In fact the gravel pit is no longer there. It’s really hard to explain what happened in this area; a landscaping on steroids. Bulldozers brought in piles of dirt, redirected hills and islands and developed a recreational masterpiece. The gravel pit became a gorgeous lake with a picturesque island in the center. Pavilions and picnic tables are scattered in perfect symmetry throughout the park. The community meticulously constructed a playground that can entertain children for hours. (I know this for a fact). The cemented trail all around the park lends for roller blading, walking, biking and in the winter skiing. Fishing is a common sport in designated areas around the lake. There is also a boating area for enjoying the water without getting wet. However, if getting wet is your intention, as it was ours on this overly hot day, then the greatest adventure at Hawk Island is the splash pad.
We knew we were getting close to the watery play area as we continued our walk. We could see the lake through the trees. The increase in frequency of passing pedestrians also gave us a clue.
Then we heard the screaming. It was the constant squealing, giggling, yelling and laughing of hundreds of Lansing residents refreshing themselves in the lake and at the splash pad. It called to us from around the trail. With sweat dripping down our backs we could only hope that we would reach that refreshing water soon. We made the turn onto the trail that took us directly to flowing, crystal clear fountains. We walked past the boat area; we passed the trail to the playground and beach and walked right through the gate to the Hawk Island splash pad. We waded through the clouds of chlorine and suntan lotion and joined the throngs of people that we had just heard screaming in the distance. For the next hour we stood under buckets filling with water, slowly spilling onto our heads. We ran through tunnels of shooting water and stood on holes in the ground gushing water straight into the sky. We used guns to shoot the water and cones to redirect it. It was the hottest day of the year and many were out seeking anything to refresh them and to wash the sweat from their bodies. With these incredibly warm summer days many would have no other way to cool down and definitely not have anything this cool!