It’s my first walk. After a couple trial runs in the Prospect Park where I awkwardly stood silent with my sign reading “A Hand 2 Hold” (feeling like a walking poster child for some NGO or marketing scam), I learned that the best way to conduct a social art movement would require a bit more social effort on my part….Doy.
So as the weather started to cool down and my courage began to warm up, I reached out to people through various online platforms such as Tinder and OkCupid, places that had acted as a great refuge for me in dating and meeting new people.
Considering all this build-up, and months of mustering up the courage to present my project to others, Camille was the perfect first. Kind, curious, full of wonder and warmth. I couldn’t have asked for a better walking partner.
From our cyber banter I knew that we’d have an easy time talking about all the little big things: colors, light, smells, and tastes of our surroundings. And within the first couple seconds of meeting, I felt a sense of relief to realize that I was acting more nervously than she.
“Are you comfortable?” asked Camille. “Yes, thank you for asking. Are you?” I said with a great stupid-happy smile.
This simple question made a difference. We both seemed glad to have acknowledged each other’s comfort and proceeded to make observations about the way our hands felt along the walk.
We noted a ball of energy in the space between our palms, which later evolved into in Camille’s words, a “squishy marble”. I felt my lingering adolescent fear of my clammy hands wash away as my cold 9am thumb was also given the space and permission to be warmed.
I was curious to know more about this beautiful person’s path. How did she get here? Where did she come from? What did she fear, hate, love?
For the first time in her life, Camille told me that she was really feeling her age, 40. She always wanted children, but now worried it was becoming too late. We walked past the most adorable tubby tots huddling around their teacher and Camille sighed. I could see the love in her eyes. Camille would be a great mother.Her innocence, light, and love continued to charm me. As we walked past a cottage near the home of Shakespeare in the Park, Delacorte Theater, Camille expressed with delight how it reminded her of eating raspberries and fresh cream. The craving was mutual. I was excited to show her one of my favorite trees in the park, which I hoped would be in its full crimson glory.
I was very disappointed then to see the green leaves resisting the seasonal change, but Camille did not seem to mind and noticed some budding mauve tips on the top. My exceedingly high expectations for the fall foliage (that I also hold for myself) had me miss a more subtle and beautiful transformation taking place.Camille revealed to me that her last relationship had been an abusive one where she’d come home to the loud noises of her partner’s screams, breaking plates, and shaking her to listen. It shocked me to imagine such violent scenes happening in our peaceful surroundings. She admitted to me that she loved the passion and excitement of it all.
In the middle of this discussion, we realized that we had no idea where we were. Lost in “The Ramble” of Central Park, we laughed at how strange and unusual it felt to be lost in woods in the middle of NYC. But it turned out to be our favorite experience of the walk.
When I asked her what she hated, she replied that her mother always said stupidity, but that she hated stagnancy more than anything. I admired Camille’s resilience to people in her life trying to keep things under control.
These moments were not as heavy or as intense as they may seem. Camille was funny, light, and had a great sense of curiosity that was contagious. She compared herself to the playful grasshopper from the Aesop’s Fables, who is ill-prepared for winter while the ant, who toils away has shelter and reaps the benefits of hard work. I thought she was being hard on herself, but she explained that you do not need to change yourself in order to become more grounded.
It is important to come back to the earth after years of air travel. When Camille explained these feelings to me, I envisioned a stretching motion of the body: pushing into the ground while also keeping your head high and hopeful—still that unique airy you, just more balanced and aware.
As I said goodbye to Camille, my heart felt full with joy, but conflicted in letting go. In the last hour, I had fallen in love with this person, this moment, and now needed to go back to the outside world. Leaving it at that was surprisingly satisfying. I may never see this person again, but I was going to drink up the love without conditions or doubt. My first walk was complete in every way.