A writer’s exercise
I’d been walking 30 minutes two or three times a week, but my doctor wanted 45 minutes every day. Naomi, my girlfriend and most incisive editor, said she’d walk with me. We decided that rather than take it on as a daily chore, we’d try making it fun on the theory it eventually might actually become fun.
We started driving downtown to the attractively restored historic district early every morning to beat the heat. We set up several routes for variety.
One game we play is to spot three things we never noticed on previous walks. An architectural embellishment. An unusual floral or arboreal species. A name on a historical sign. Then the next day we’d have to each find three more, and remember the ones we spotted the day before. And then the day before that. We got it up to a week’s worth. And we still see things we’ve not noticed before.
Another game is people watching. Trying to guess what a particular walker does or may have done for a living and what their personality might be like. Trying to memorize at least three dominant facial and physical features. Trying to judge height and weight.
It wasn’t long before we were looking forward to our morning sessions. Exercising our bodies. Oxygenating and exercising our brains. Practicing observing our surroundings and life, one of the best skills any writer can learn.
Sometimes we try to see how many and what items in a shop window each of us can remember after a three-second look.
But the game I like the best is interacting with people we meet. If we can elicit a laugh from someone, we get an A. A smile gets a B. A wave of acknowledgement is a C. None of the above is a D. If you try only half-hard, Ds are rare.
Example: We were walking past a yard where a young woman in Spandex was braced against a tree, feet placed well back, legs straight, head between her arms, probably stretching her hamstrings. I said, “You need help pushing that over?”
She emitted a nice explosive little laugh.
I gave myself an A-plus.