When I am out, driving about and just looking around as I go on my little predetermined rut routes through town, I like to watch the people who are not in cars. I miss walking around. When I lived in Chicago, I pretty much walked everywhere. I did not have a license to drive yet, and half the time it was faster to walk than wait for a bus. It is such a different feeling. In my car I am insulated, with other insulated little metal bullets surrounding me. On the street, you are more conscious and conscientious because if you are not you will probably step in front of the late bus and die. You smell the smells, feel the energy and the rhythm of your fellow pedestrians, navigate uneven sidewalks, all that. The car is a numbing thing. Walking energizes me.

When I moved to Denver, the West, I attempted to keep walking, but everything was so spread out, with buses that really never came (every 45 minutes? why bother?) and a lack of places I wanted to walk to in the first place. After my first son was born and for a few years after, I would push him in his stroller the few blocks to the little one-block shopping street, or to the Pour Le France to get a coffee and a cookie, sometimes to the tiny branch library, or the ice cream shop, or the park. Two more kids, walking became like herding cats, and I pretty much stopped. I liked walking our dog, but got spooked after she was attacked by a loose dog. I got my license, became A Car Person, insulated.

Today I saw two young boys walking home from school, about 9 or 10 years old, backpacks bouncing on their thin shoulders. Suddenly, they both broke into a run down a steep hill, grinning. A race. One of them jumped up to touch the bottom branch of a tree as he passed it, as boys do. I passed them, silent, faster, coasting down the hill in a long stream of cars. I glanced in my rear view mirror as I turned off; they were still running, happy.

The last time I broke into a run down a hill, it was nighttime, with the tall orange-yellow streetlamps glowing brightly, a light rain coming down. I just felt like running and I smiled and burst down the wet sidewalk, stride lengthening as I picked up speed, my flat Nikes going bap bap bap on the concrete. I wanted to keep going, run faster and faster, but the Car Person in me said slow down now, it is wet and you could slip and hurt yourself.

I bap bap bapped to a stop, and leaned against a tree, catching my breath, looking up through the black silhouettes of the leaves at the rainy mist floating, caught in the glow of the streetlamp, feeling the wet little drops on my face. Conscious. Happy.