Walking and Remembering

I’ve been thinking about walking. Admittedly, thoughts like these have their origins in reflections backward to this time one year ago. Mark said “goodbye” to his house at 38 Pleasant Street, and walked down the hill on his one-way street commencing yet another cross-country journey into the unknown. He’d done a similar one in 2010, but this one was different in a host of ways.

He let readers know some of the reasons why he was making this trek. I knew the road had been calling out to him across the expanse of the previous six years since he stepped into the Pacific after wearily making his way across the sands of Santa Monica Beach at the end of that epic march.

Mark wasn’t the first writer who’d been drawn to the realm of walking. Perhaps the obvious name that crops up when talking about writers who valued the walking experience would be Thoreau. There have been a host of others. There seems to have been some deeper, intuitive connection between walking, thinking, and then, writing. We of course have by-and-large lost this. I’m sure part of this stems from being immersed completely in our American version of Happy Motoring.

I found an older article in The New Yorker by Adam Gopnik. He details how at one point in the mid-19th century, walking was actually “the dominant spectator sport in America.” Could be that if enough fervently patriotic football fans abandon the NFL, then walking might make a comeback? That would be a shame because if there was a figure who could captivate fans of professional walking, it would have been Mark.

Beginning a cycle where I plan to watch each one of Mark’s 100 videos he made from Day One through the final one he posted last January, I’m happy to champion the Mark Baumer Walking Fan Club. While I’ve watched them all before, I’m pretty sure this new round of viewing will offer up treasures I missed the first time. However, spending time with these videos is also sad, reminding me yet again that we’re now in a season of anniversaries related to missing Mark. October 13 is simply a starting point of sorts.

On Friday, close friends, some of Mark’s Brown library co-workers, union colleagues, activist brethren, along with members from literary arts, as well as MFA buds celebrated Mark’s writing, walking, and uniqueness. They invited Mary and me to join in. This all was rolled into Josiah Carberry Day at the school. To say it was emotional or special doesn’t do it justice. To everyone who showed up and celebrated Mark, we send a heartfelt “thank you!”

Remembering is hard. Anniversaries are difficult. But knowing that Mark was someone who affected so many people helps ease the pain a bit.

We’re very grateful that a tree was planted and a plaque will be added in Mark’s memory in front of Rockefeller Library. We now have something to look forward to in the spring when the Eastern Red Bud blooms.

Planting a tree for Mark (what it should look like when it blooms in the spring).