Reflection on Walk #51 from Rio Vista Intermediate School in northwest Fresno, near Herndon and Polk. On a very warm Friday morning, at 7 am, four Fresno Mindfulness Walkers met in the parking lots of Rio Vista Intermediate and River Bluff Elementary, which bump up next to each other. These Central Unified schools are clean and well-manicured. There was no activity at the schools.
Walkers crossed the street and immediately entered a fairly new housing development of single-family homes by McCaffrey. We did not observe much activity going on, only a few morning walkers. We noticed a number of people out walking, wearing silky, flowing garments. A couple of men walked alone, wearing all white flowing fabrics with a white headwrap. A man and woman walked together, the woman in bright solid fabric and the man in all white. Walkers talked about the prevalence of people from the Middle East or India in the area.
This walk covered three separate housing sections separated by dirt fields and dying orchards. In the distance we could see the new Target shopping center and large construction equipment. At the dead end of a neighborhood street, Walkers read a notice posted by City of Fresno about the General Plan and the date of upcoming meetings. Walkers talked about how the City’s priorities for development are apparent in this area, as houses replace orchards and Target shopping centers require thoroughfares, lighting, curbs, water, and all the other infrastructure to support thousands of residents. Walkers talked about the many neighborhoods we have walked that need city investment to attract residents who can improve their houses and properties.
Even within the housing developments, Walkers noticed blocks of houses that were the same age with a limited variety of floor plans and paint colors. Walkers commented on a section of houses with no front porches and the front doors set way back and invisible from the sidewalk. “Architecture has an effect on emotion,” was a comment from a Walker. Other house floor plans included just a small pad at the front door. Walkers also observed a section of floor plans that included Victorian style entrances with a bigger front porch for seating furniture.
Sights on this walk: three schools, Stallion park, drought notices, huge electrical towers marching at an angle through the neighborhoods, dead ends, dying fig tree orchards, mattresses and large furniture items dumped in a field, lawns in all states from green to brown, lawn statues, Catholic/religious symbols in yards, front yard seating on the grass and temporary shade structures, newer model cars, little shade on the streets, sidewalks well maintained, well-landscaped apartments on Polk, one garage sale, many houses for sale, and a tractor digging for a backyard pool. Two or three people were doing yard work.
Sounds: train in the distance, birds, occasional barking dogs, car traffic, loud music from open car window, snapping of electricity on the electrical towers, breeze in the trees, lots of quiet on this walk.
Smells: one occasion of bacon/breakfast cooking, rosemary, lavender, cat pee, dirt and orchard smells of dust, damp dirt, and dried leaves.
At William Saroyan Elementary School, the school was closed to be fumigated and was ‘tented’ for pests. Walkers talked about the irony of a school named for the Central Valley hero of William Saroyan being fumigated for pests. A Walker chatted with a couple who had just pulled up to the school, and told us they thought they were meeting the bus here to take their two little girls to summer school. The darling school girls were in matching pink with backpacks and neatly fixed hair. The parents thought they had missed the bus. Walkers talked about the date of Friday, July 3–it was possibly a holiday from summer school. The parents were covered in tattoos, even on their hands and faces. Walkers talked about how assumptions are often challenged on these walks. The couple covered in tattoos had brought neatly dressed girls for summer school and were ready to drive across town because they missed the bus for summer school. Walkers wondered how the parents would have been contacted if it were a summer school holiday.
Walkers strolled through Stallion Neighborhood Park with playground equipment, basketball courts, and large lawn areas. There were three men sitting at a picnic table talking, two with white turbins and all three with beards. One man had two German shepherds with him, and another man was talking on a cell phone. The four Walkers, all who were women, talked about how we chose not to approach the men or walk near to their picnic table, maybe because of the dogs. Walkers discussed our preconceived notions about people in general and then questioned our assumptions about safety. One Walker said she waved from a distance, and the men returned her greeting.
Walkers heard a low baritone voice singing and then saw the singer in his driveway. After a friendly greeting, we met Martin Viramontes, and he told us he sings professionally, songs by Elvis, Johnny Cash, and Tony Bennett. Martin said he bought this house and moved here a year ago. When we asked him where he moved from, he said from about 3 miles away.
Walkers saw many houses for sale, and a couple for lease or rent. This walk may have had the most “for sale” signs of any neighborhood walked this past year.
Walkers talked about these neighborhoods lacking landmarks that give a sense of identity. Streets and house colors look similar and are hard to identify without looking at the street signs. Walkers talked about the housing market fluctuations and the reasons that people would move into these northwest neighborhoods. Schools? Access to Hwy 99? Affordable? A sense of safety and removal from the problems of downtown and places to the south? Why are so many houses for sale?
These are our brothers and sisters in Fresno. All of our lives and futures are tied together.
Facebook photo album #1: https://www.facebook.com/pg/fresnomindfulnesswalks/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1634119966874751
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