On Places, Puddles & Plans


October 12, 2011, Washington, DC: I went for a soggy walk through my neighborhood this evening. I had no plan. Forty minutes later, I was the honored owner of a well-worn book with the inscription below, as well as another book I'd been searching for for quite some time. I’d also been invited to a neighborhood pig roast.

Fantastic things can happen when you don’t have a plan.

But how often do we carve out time for a destination-less stroll? How often do we let ourselves wander? How valuable are these aimless walks in our search for the perfect community?

Perhaps it's critical to let ourselves wander.

I'd planned on doing nothing tonight. But when I drove into my neighborhood after a horrendously rainy commute, these blocks had transformed into a lush, green rainforest. And so I walked. Had I not, I wouldn't have stopped in to P&C Market on Lincoln Park, a quaint spot tucked away next to Surroundings, a gardening shop flanked by pumpkins and corn husks. I wouldn't have learned about their local, organic milk, nor the meat brought in from Virginia's Polyface Farms. I wouldn't have been invited to their upcoming pig roast, nor left with these parting instructions: "Bring a side dish. Come meet your neighbors."

If I'd had a plan tonight, I'm fairly sure it wouldn't have included a stop in Riverby Books on East Capitol, where a sign on the counter read, "You can find me downstairs" and the shopkeeper and his customer were deep in conversation about the disappearance of the Republican Party they once knew. I wouldn't have instinctively wandered into the section called urbanism, where my eyes quickly fell on the book, Crabgrass Frontier, penned by my former professor Kenneth Jackson, one I'd lost long ago in my stack of books from college. Had I not taken time to explore, I wouldn't have discovered Terry Pindell's A Good Place to Live on that same shelf, screaming my name with its perfect inscription: "Christmas 1997, Dear Mom, Hope this proves inspirational in your search for the perfect community. -K"

If I hadn't wandered this evening, I may not have noticed the loads of autumn leaves that fell today. I might not have noticed the puddles. I probably wouldn't have taken time to realize what a good sign it is to live in a neighborhood that entices you to walk in the rain.