I can remember a night last year when a delicious restlessness made me want to wander for hours through the city. It was humid with that satisfying damp smell rising from the asphalt as it released the day’s stored-up heat. The urge to walk endlessly felt familiar, triggered by the smells and the quiet openness of the city. There was a sense that only very slow activities were taking place in the syrupy air. Almost no one was out as I moved through the urban quiet, meaning distant sirens, a chorus of dripping air conditioners kicking on and off, cars zipping past, fragments of music and overheard conversation. As I walked to the Hudson to look at the river and sky, I had a pervasive feeling of balance, like floating in warm salty ocean water – bobbing gently through the night.
This impulse to walk and walk and walk is one that strikes me every year at this time – a personally recurring solstice event. My meandering was just another element contributing to this landscape of sounds, smells, and shadowy activities in an ever-shifting collage. What was happening in the heat was a melding of my external and internal worlds – the cityscape with my personal landscape. The pieces were distinct yet overlapping. I didn’t want to sit, stand, or talk. I wanted to move. As my body traced its trail block by block, I left my soft mark on the landscape that enveloped me, my skin’s surface a permeable wall faintly delineating inner and outer, me and not-me.
In moments of connection to our world, we luxuriate in the feeling of merging with something bigger than ourselves, but we do so through our own individual sensibilities. As we move through our environment, how can we draw our experiences into our bodies and minds to more deeply appreciate our richly layered world?