The Other Walk by Sven Birkerts

from "The Other Walk"

This morning, going against all convention, I turned right instead of left and took my circuit—one of my circuits—in reverse. Why hadn’t I thought of this before, given that the familiarity of the other loop has become so oppressive, even to one who swears by the zen of familiarity, the main tenet being that if you are bored with what you’re seeing, you’re not seeing clearly enough, not looking? Still, going against the grain of my usual track, seeing every single thing from the other side, was suddenly welcome. It also helped that it felt like the first real spring day, the birds more liquid in their vowels, and the waft of that elusive something added to the usual air. Habit and repetition. It’s not as if I don’t know this other walk intimately, too—not as if I haven’t taken it hundreds of times over what are now becoming these years of walking. How is it I haven’t written more on this topic? It’s been a big part of the day’s business for years. I don’t remember when I started. Easily seven or eight years ago, maybe more. For a long time walking vied with swimming—walking was what I did when I couldn’t get myself into a pool or pond in the early morning. Then swimming gradually waned, and this took over. Five, six mornings a week, year-round. And so many phases. The edgy, anxious midlife walks that for so long were my only recourse to sleeplessness. I would wake in the dark all wired up and needing to push against myself, to burn off the gnawing, no choice but to get out. In those days the circuits were vast, miles and miles, all of them covered at a clip, the point being not to see anything but to get into the day in a way I could stand, that was not intolerable. And the walking would eventually bring me around—after the up and down of the neighborhood streets, down along the edge of the playing fields, onto the bike path, which I would follow for a good mile or so, before hooking up with the long road winding back past the Busa farm stand, though it was really only in that last stretch, coming up to Busa, that I would feel my body and breath get into sync....

Excerpted from "The Other Walk" © 2011 by Sven Birkerts. Reprinted from The Other Walk with the permission of Graywolf Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota.