REFLECTION FROM WALK #3. On Saturday morning, October 17, 2015, four mindfulness walkers met in front of the Philip J. Patino School of Entrepreneurship, Fresno Unified’s newest high school. This shiny architectural masterpiece stands in contrast to the small aging homes with leaning fences. We could see Fresno City College’s Ratcliffe Stadium peeking over the top of the new two story buildings. The air was clean from the rain the night before, and the cotton ball clouds kept teasing us to gaze upward. Walkers took deep breaths and began the 4 mile trek.
FMWalkers do not talk to each other on these walks. However, we did get to talk to a number of people on this walk. We met Robert who was working in his lush, colorful front yard, a stand out from most with piece-meal landscaping and brown lawns. Robert told us he’s owned his house for 27 years, long before Hwy 41, which cuts through the neighborhood just four houses down from his well-tended home.
Walkers met Chang, a tiny woman who was in a squatting position using a stick in the gutter when we first saw her. A giant tree shaded the entire corner of the single-story apartments behind her. The apartments were inside a chain-linked fence with an open gate. Chang stood as if to greet us. She didn’t speak English very well, but communicated with her warm smiles, arm pats, and waves.
Walkers met Daniel who was singing while he walked between the Fresno Art Museum and St. George’s Greek Orthodox church. Daniel told us how he prays at sunrise and sunset to give gratitude for the day. Within two minutes, Daniel told us about his Native American philosophies. He sang us a native American blessing before we parted ways. Walkers talked about our encounter with Daniel and how this was such an unexpected beautiful spiritual experience. One walker said that was all the church she needed.
Walkers discussed how these neighborhoods had so much life, activity, and individual expression in each house. We saw a women in a dress and high heels sweeping leaves from her carport. We saw a family of 5 cleaning out their garage. A number of people were out front with coffee and/or cigarettes enjoying the much-needed cool, damp weather.
These four miles covered a variety of neighborhoods such as the older neighborhoods surrounding Patino and the dozens of streets that dead-end both on the west side and east side of Hwy 41. Walkers crossed Clinton and continued wandering through older small homes. People were out walking or working in their yards. People were friendly and greeted us freely. On Princeton just a few houses west of Hwy 41, Walkers paused for a moment in front of the new Veterans Hospitality House that had been announced in the Fresno Bee the day before. The article explained that this tiny 2 bedroom house is available free to veterans or their families to stay a few nights if they are receiving treatment at the nearby Veterans hospital. Walkers crossed under Hwy 41 on Princeton, wandered through neighborhood streets, corners of retail, and some run down apartments.
At Clinton and Fresno, FMWalkers strolled through Parc Grove Commons, a beautiful new apartment complex of the Housing Authority. Each section of apartments is surrounded by green spaces, seating areas, and playgrounds. There’s a large common use area, club house, and beautiful swimming pool. Kids were skate boarding through the parking lot. Parents pushed two young children on the swings. Two young men were walking around picking up trash and sweeping. Walkers talked about the affordability for families to live in small apartments that are well-kept, clean, safe, and have all the amenities that let children and families play and live inside and outside. There were many seating areas with bbq cooktops with signs of recent use. One Walker told us she remembered the previous complexes that were run down.
Sights: bicycles, cats, rabbits, dogs, squirrels, man chipping golf balls in Radio Park, clouds, front yard seating, solar panels, drought tolerant landscaping, big mature trees, roses, work trucks, landscapers, lots of halloween decorations, garage sales, food marts, payday lenders, abandoned shopping carts filled with belongings, exposed trash, abandoned mattress, large trees – oaks, pomegranate, citrus. One walker thought she saw a pear tree. Many churches including the Fresno Ba’hai center.
Smells: cool fresh air, roses, food cooking, car exhaust.
Sounds: birds, traffic noise, freeway, crunching leaves, laughter, talking, children running and playing, There were pockets of streets that were quiet except for the whirr of Hwy 41 traffic. Walkers didn’t mention hearing roosters or music blaring from car windows – which we often hear.
Feelings: Walkers were moved by the openness of people to talk to us, to share their stories with us even for a few minutes. People freely talked about their homes, their yards, and what living here means to them. Walkers described these strangers as open and resilient and precious. Even in neighborhoods that some would say are not that great, these people were living their lives, going to work, and taking care of their small spaces the best they can.
These are our brothers and sisters in Fresno. And whether we like it or not, or whether we would choose it or not, all of our lives and futures are tied together.This entry was posted in Uncategorized