The distance between my room and the classroom has, historically, been measured with swearing. I’m usually half-awake and late for class. It is not a pleasant time.
But this semester — my last here — I’m beginning to appreciate that distance more.
Not coincidentally, this column comes with the inauguration of spring in Chapel Hill, a town famous for springtime. The azaleas are beginning to percolate pink, bulbs poke up awkwardly and lying on the quad feels (is) more productive than making it to class.
My appreciation for walking began, however, not by choice. Last spring, the love of my life — my bike, named T-Pain — was stolen.
I started walking to class every day, an act most people already do, but one that requires a bit more mindfulness than busing or biking. The 30-minute hike wore an observing groove into my day that hadn’t been there before.
There’s no other time when I would keep season with the changing window displays, sync schedules with the dog walkers or stop to pet the bookstore cats on Franklin Street. (Side note: The cats couldn’t care less that I exist, but it’s still worth it.)
Walking became an obsession beyond the small cartography of home-to-campus. I began to understand better the baffling reason why suburban moms always seem to get up at 5 a.m., just to walk.
There’s a lot to forget in a college town. The markers of quintessential Chapel Hill come ready-made in glossy pamphlets. We began to reduce an understanding of place with that one token bar, that one pizza place.
And that is a part of Chapel Hill, yes — but it’s also a wide panorama, found not just on one street or ZIP code but in the ecosystem of Durham, the Triangle, North Carolina. We know this.