The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

January 27, 2013

Morning walk clears the head

KEVIN CULLEN
Commercial-News

It was 15 degrees out the other morning when I came into the office, all rosy-cheeked and runny-nosed.

One of the women stared at me in disbelief as I hung up my coat, cap, gloves and scarf.

“You didn’t WALK today, did you?” she asked.

“Yeah,” I said. “It wasn’t bad. No wind.”

She gave me that look that said, “Poor thing. He’s lost his mind completely.”

I like to walk to work. It takes me between 20 and 25 minutes, depending on the route. There’s one long, gradual hill to ascend — and it’s 600 steps to the top.

My wife and I work in the same office, and we ride together when it’s icy. But whenever I can, I leave the house around 7:35 a.m. to give myself time to walk there by 8 o’clock.

Each day, I see the same four people. First, I see a fellow, about my age, who is obviously down on his luck. We smile and say hello to each other. I suspect he is heading to a center where homeless people go to get free breakfasts, but I may be wrong.

On the hill, a perky blonde woman, probably in her mid-20s, walks my way. I have no idea who she is, but she, too, smiles as she passes. She says, “Good morning!” and she seems to mean it.

A block later, I always see a school girl, maybe 10 or 11 years old, waiting for the school bus. Her mother waits with her. They both say hello. The mother stands on the sidewalk until the girl is on the bus, then they wave to each other through the window. It’s very sweet.

My route takes me through two neighborhoods that have been on the National Register of Historic Places for 30 years or more. The old houses come in many shapes, sizes and styles. I especially like a little brick workman’s cottage; the plaque on the façade says it dates to 1840. A few doors up, near the top of the hill, is an 1860s mansion with a slate-roofed tower; I’ve often tried to visualize the top-of-the-world view from up there. Across the street, a lawyer is restoring a long-neglected showplace. It’s been fun to watch his progress.

Even when it’s cold, I enjoy my walk to work. It stimulates me, educates me, clears my head, provides a little exercise, and lets me experience the seasons. Winter is beautiful, in its own way.

I like this paragraph, from a 1967 book titled “The Magic of Walking”:

“Walking is the exercise that needs no gym. It is the prescription without medicine, the weight control without diet, the cosmetic that is sold in no drugstore. It is the tranquilizer without a pill, the therapy without a psychoanalyst, the fountain of youth that is no legend. A walk is the vacation that does not cost a cent.”

How true. Walk to work? Why not try it sometime? I think you’ll like it.

Danville native Kevin Cullen is a former Commercial-News reporter. Reach him at irishhiker@aol.com.