Marina Khoury on the intangible benefits of walking
Kevin’s note: When I wrote Why I Walk: Taking a Step in the Right Direction in 2014, I included about a dozen personal stories from other contributors. I did this because I believe it’s important for us all to share our stories, and explain our choices in very personal terms to our family, friends and colleagues. We still are at a stage where the culture of a house in the suburbs and a car for every adult is the norm, and we need to build understanding and empathy for the “other” path of walking, biking and urban living. If you’d like to share your story, send me an email and I’ll consider running it, too. For all stories, I like to include a personal photo, as well.
Today’s story is from one of my favorite colleagues and friends in the urban design world, Marina Khoury.
I recently moved from one great city to another: Miami to the DC metro area, but my life here feels nobler and distinctly richer. I currently live in Lakelands, work in Kentlands, and every day, I am gratified to see these new towns function exactly the way they are intended to. I have dedicated my professional life to designing vibrant communities and adding vitality to neighborhoods. And walking, or the elegant, safe and always interesting possibility walking brings, is one of the greatest contributors to that happy success.
I can extol the virtues of walking all day and its many tangible benefits are well documented. I know it is better for the environment simply because it decreases my personal carbon emissions. I know it is better for my physical health and emotional well being as it not only decreases my chances of obesity-related diseases, but it actually promotes happiness. I am all for that! I can attest to the fact that is a financial boon for my wallet as these two walkable communities perform better economically and command significantly higher premiums in housing values than the sprawl that surrounds them. These are all worthy rewards, but it is a walk’s intangible benefits that are even more compelling.
As seasons evolve and time flows, so does my experience of walking. Most recently, I am the mother of an active eighteen-month-old daughter, Lyla, who absolutely delights in being outdoors, regardless of the weather. So we go on walks to parks, to explore and discover or to spend time in an activity we both enjoy, separately but together. We see the world differently, partly because she is happily discovering it for the first time. Personally, as an architect, I enjoy the casual study of the buildings I stroll by and walking gives me the feel and understanding of the character of a place like nothing else can. But as a twin, I thrive on human contact and chance encounters that keep me connected to my community. I chat easily, if briefly, with many neighbors, whether in their garden, on their porch or on the sidewalk. I notice the new couple strolling hand in hand, oblivious of anything but each other. I smile at the teenage skateboarders who have willfully taken over the street, even if temporarily. Sometimes these walks are meditative and have a way of calming me and clearing my head. My husband and I have solved plenty of challenges, as ideas somehow come easier when strolling. As Henry David Thoreau eloquently said, “the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow.” How true.
As we walk, I notice the usual while Lyla notices things within her height. Walking is her great adventure and she is truly experiencing the sidewalks as her own personal outdoor playroom. It is a joy to watch the world reveal itself to her in this manner. She squeals with delight as she notices the ladybug crawling on the colorful flowerbed we pass or as she haplessly chases the squirrel she glimpsed at the base of the tree. She boldly attempts to pat each and every dog we stroll by. She tap dances around the paving patterns etched in the plaza. She has made plenty of new friends while out on walks while providing me with yet another good excuse to humbly do so as well. So much flows from our precious walks together and I want to keep enjoying them for as long as I can, because I know this carefree and innocent time will pass. And then it will be on to the next compelling reason to keep on walking, hopefully always with Lyla, for the rest of my life.
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