Thursday, November 30, 2006

TAKE A HIKE

“I’m going to take a hike” you say. You’re in the country and plan to head out for an hour or three to wander the countryside. You’ll be walking, a little climbing perhaps. You’ll look at the landscape, the flora and fauna—hills, valleys, trees, seasonal foliage, flowers, birds, maybe a squirrel, a cow, perhaps a deer.

You return from your hike empty-handed. Or maybe carrying some flowers, a rock or a shell.

Everyone applauds your ‘get up and go.’ They envy your exercise, your interest in the great outdoors, in health, in your environment.

They don’t say, ‘What do you mean—you were gone for hours and you didn’t bring anything back? What on earth were you doing out there? Just walking around looking at stuff???”

They don’t say that. They don’t even think it. You went for a hike—that’s what you do on a hike. You walk around and look at stuff.

So is it anti-industrial backlash that vilifies the exact same actions and often similar results when they apply to an urban experience?

“I’m going shopping,” you say. You’re in the city and plan to head out for an hour or three to wander the town, check out the stores. You’ll be walking, a little climbing perhaps. You’ll be looking at the landscape, the flora and fauna—streets, buildings, stores with their displays of seasonal garb and lifestyle choices, multi-faceted entertainment, food—often unique to the time of year and locale. You’ll see people of all sizes and shapes in a phenomenal variety of “plumage.”
You return from your hike empty handed. Or maybe carrying a few things you found.

Everyone says, “What do you mean—you were gone for hours and you didn’t bring anything back? What on earth were you doing out there? Just walking around for hours looking at stuff???”

They don’t applaud your ‘get up and go.' They don’t admire your healthy exercise, your interest in the great outdoors, your curiosity about your environment.

They don’t say that. They don’t even think it. But it’s just as true as a hike in the country. That’s what you do when you go shopping—you walk around and look at stuff.

The only difference is that it’s an urban, not a rural world you are observing—but of no less interest in terms of things to observe and reflect on.

My recommendation? Reject—summarily reject—the often pejoratively-used term “shopping.” From henceforth embrace the more accurate: Urban Hiking.

Hike on!

6 comments:

HollyJacobs said...

Isabel,

Urban Hiking! LOL I'll be using that one!

Holly

Linda L. Richards said...

I've been a mad urban hiker for about a decade. Proud of it, too. Until, in a bout of insanity, I moved to an island where I'm surrounded, injected and trampled upon by nature at every turn.

Now don't get me wrong: nature has its strong points, its things to recommend it. However, when it comes to walking for walking's sake, the urban landscape can be superior. I miss, for instance, being able to stuff incoming checks into my purse knowing I could deposit them whenever I happened to wander past an ATM. I'd have to wander a long time where I live. We have eagles. (Gobs of them.) And trees. (Countless, countless.) We have adorable, tiny island deer. We have songbirds beyond description. But no banks. Not a one.

Or coffee. (Don't get me started.) There is no place that you don't need a ferry to get to on this island where you can get a decent latte. Besides my house, of course. Which isn't quite the same. (No baristas to boss around.)

This week I'm probably feeling a little more pathetic than usual about my self-imposed island exile. We're getting uncharacteristic snow and have spent most of the last week without phone or power. (Both are back now, obviously. Or I wouldn't be here.) And there is something lovely in the stillness on this island. Something pristine and perfect.

One recent morning, I came through the forest, my dogs at my heels. I broke through the forest, the snow on the ground and saw the city, some 20 miles distant and wreathed in fog. I could hear the call of an eagle, the whisper of the surf but I could see the city, as though through some magic lens. I felt like the only person on earth. And it was beautiful.

Shirley Jump said...

LOL! I totally love this too. Why didn't I think of this? It's a very creative use of language, and such a better way to put this essential use of my time. I live in suburbia, though, so I'll have to slightly adapt to convince my husband that I AM honing my survival skills in the outdoor-air mall.

Those women at Von Maur can be pretty brutal, after all, particularly when they are trying to get out the door and hurry across the plaza and over to the Coldwater Creek sale. They'll knock over your firstborn and think nothing of it.

I'm not only hiking, I'm studying human behavior, a vital tool in my writing career. This is "research" and just to keep people from suspecting my ulterior motives, I must purchase a few things. To blend in with the crowd. That's all.

Hmm...I wonder if the IRS will consider this human research a tax deduction? If I get the right auditor, and if she's wearing really cool shoes, I just might be able to make my case ;-)

Shirley

Isabel Swift said...

Holly: use it with my blessings! Next stop: Wikipedia. And I can't feel too sorry for your Linda--it sounds too lovely! And, hey, isn't all of life a tax deduction for writers, Shirley? It's certainly all research!

Michelle Willingham said...

Love it! It's funny, but I often enjoy browsing more than actual shopping (no lines!). :)

Bernita said...

After all, walking a pair of squirrel-hungry dogs on leash, for example, is hardly more active than shouldering through a mall or nipping past impatient motorists at a cross-walk.