I’ve made enough walks originating from the Loop and heading north so that I can describe a few of the almost universal milestones that I encounter along the way. The first and most important is what I call the North Avenue Barrier. To begin with, I decided years ago that if I can’t make it to at least North Avenue, then my walk has been a failure. Very often, I am seriously dragging in those last few blocks and I just barely make it to the bus shelter at North Ave. and Clark. But there’s more to it – if I can find a way to keep pushing beyond North Avenue, the walk will often become much easier. It’s as if my body has given up trying to stop me from walking. It’s at this point that I will usually enter what I suppose is the walking equivalent of a “runner’s high.” My mind enters a highly vivid and creative state. I will often compose intricate and passionate poems, songs, and essays in my head. Sometimes, I sit down on a bench in nearby Lincoln Park and jot them down. A big part of it is a feeling of tremendous emotional purging. The collected thoughts, frustrations, yearnings, and dreams of the day or week are finding a release valve.
Tonight was such a night. North of North Avenue, I decided to keep off the main street for a while and walk through the heart of Lincoln Park. It was rather dark and there are no streetlights in that part of the park, though there was enough light to keep me from walking into a tree or a pond. I suppose my late mother would have upbraided me for taking such a stroll in the big dangerous city, but you know, sometimes you have to walk where you need to walk. My favorite moment of the entire evening occurred in the park. I was nearing a large pond in which I have many times seen flocks of geese and ducks. I could hear the geese chatting with one another. It was too dark to see them, but at my closest approach they couldn’t have been more than 50 feet away. Their chattering in the darkness put me in mind of an all-water fowl cast for The Waltons saying goodnight to one another at the end of the day. I stopped for a moment and let their music fill my ears before I moved on. It was a wonderful thing to have my entire encounter with them completely defined through the sense of hearing.
I ultimately made it a few blocks north of Fullerton when I decided that it was time to wait for the bus. I’ve been home for almost five hours now, and this is the surest sign that it was a really good walk – I wasn’t at all tired when I got home, and I’m not particularly tired now, even though it’s 3 a.m. In this way, Chicago and I are made for each other – it’s a city to be walked in, and I love my walking.