Marcel Proust once said “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” It’s a line I sometimes tell myself as I walk roughly the same route to work that I’ve walked for the last nine years. Sometimes it’s an admonishment – a jolt back from a daydream of some imagined land and life – as quotes, even good ones that you totally agree with, often become when thrown in your face by family members, coworkers, or Oprah. And other times it’s a reminder to notice even the small changes visible all around every day.
Saturday morning broke numbingly cold – 9 degrees and who even wants to know about the wind chill. Yet I ventured out anyway, earnestly admonishing myself with another quote, but this one from a friend rather than a dead Frenchman: “You can’t let the weather determine your life – or your wardrobe.” So I headed out, suitably bundled, on a route I walk fairly often. But this time I saw things I’d never seen before.
Maybe there was a clarity to the frigid air that made everything more visible. Or maybe my brain was too numb to throw up its usual distractions, but how had I never noticed the Art Deco beauty of the State Office Building? Or the stark white trunks of birch trees at the back entrance to a bar?
The more I looked and saw new things, the more I thought about how many times I’ve walked some of these streets – how many miles I’ve walked without seeing. The most shocking one I came up with was State Street, which I walk at least 200 times (conservatively) up and down every year. It’s a mile each way from top to bottom. That’s 400 miles each year on a single street. Factor in my nine years living here and I’ve walked 3,600 miles on State Street alone, more than the width of the continental United States.
And yet despite all these miles, that well-trod path is still littered with new discoveries.