I lived in suburbia far too long. While I have barely escaped tightly packed housing and suburbans with stick figue families decorating their rear windows, I can see that there is a definite difference. I am not in the largest of cities, some might even say that Gainesville isn’t much of a city at all: it is a University campus that has a few shops and restaurants. Still, the change is palpable.
For one, I never have to drive anywhere. In the pits of suburbia I had a ten minute walk just to pass the pseudo-secure borders of a gate just to leave my ‘sub-division’, let alone find my way to a major intersection. A trip to the store was an hour ordeal filled with traffic, fumes, and the unmistakable fear that a young teen in a souped up Kia would slam into me going 80 in a 30. Towards the end of my time in New Tampa I tried to use a bicycle- it was just as ineffective, and more dangerous.
Now I am here in a small city known as Gainesville. Today I left the house and passed by my car. The blue beast I had once relied on heavily now sits silently. In a month I have used no more than a tank of gas- a quarter of my normal consumption. My walk downtown is quick, most everything I could want is well within a quick jog, and if compelled I could dig out that bicycle I mentioned earlier.
When I drive I think I find a peace in the passing world. It flows past me, and I can only still the sight for as long as my eyes can avoid the road, which is at best a fraction of a second. As I am sure the speed at which we walk is significantly less than that at which we drive. That stilled world open for observation lasts, its temporary nature expands. A passing field becomes an enveloping landscape, full of creatures hidden when you whirr past them at speeds bipedal locomotion would never allow.
You know this- I am by no means the first to think that slowing down shows you the world in greater detail. You know when the world screams by you can only see the broad spectrum of colors, rather than every little comb of color hidden in the cracks. The slow crawl brings details to light, then what does a full stop bring?
I am lucky enough to be in a position where I can pause my commute- I already arrive hours earlier than everyone else I work with, and beyond that my directors my not actually own a watch. Friday night my lonely self began a slow walk home. It took me an hour an a half to walk the three blocks from office to apartment.
In front of me were a dozen or so nutjobs hailing jesus and holding signs of His image that seemed to be an homage to Che more than to their Lord. They are crazy, but so am I: I was discussing matters of importance with a banana (or at least a man in dressed as said fruit). Then my path meandered towards music- I tend to be dragged in that direction if my ears can hear it. I watched a man in all orange play a mean guitar, a small Asian man play the sax like I can only hope to aspire to, and a thin white woman sing as if she were Aretha. My path was riddled with smaller observations, each of them demanding of their own paragraphs, or pages.
Beyond these wonderful observations, I noticed the script on a statue thousands pass daily. Gainesville: did you know the statue in front of the courthouse stands proudly erect in honor of all of the Confederate soldiers that died in the Civil War? I had driven by a hundred times and had never seen those few jaw-dropping words.