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Down the Middle
Not sure exactly when I started my odd practice of preferring to walk down the middle of the road. During my adolescence, I remember doing this much to the delight of my friends (and horror of my parents if they knew), but can’t remember why I did it. I enjoyed being different, but never wondered why I bent the rules this way. Maybe it felt more natural to be in balance with both sides of whatever was there.
I was, and remain, adherent to rules, not drifting so much as even removing the mattress tag (until they started printing “not to be removed except by consumer” on them). Before anyone wonders how I’m still alive with such a precarious quirk, I should clarify that these are not interstates or even busy streets where I choose to take the middle line. Country roads, suburban streets, alleys, and forest roads/paths are where I usually wander to center and enjoy the freedom from conventional attitude. Yet I have, when absent of traffic, chosen to cross diagonally at a four-way intersection rather than take the traditional L-shaped route to my desired street corner.
In nature, I also used to walk across fields instead of patiently taking the bordering path. Years later, as an adult overly concerned about ticks and such, I stopped my field-crossing habit. By then I’d also embraced a path-mentality and loved the whole metaphor of paths as privileged routes through a forest, ones that protected the woods from human damage.
Is this behavior rooted in defying authority? Or a silent protest against road taxes? Not the latter since I embrace taxation for the myriad of benefits it provides a civilized society. So could it be about going places most people don’t go? Or am I embracing this nature guy’s philosophy?
We should go forth on the shortest walk, perchance, in the spirit of undying adventure…
– Henry David Thoreau
Maybe it’s merely a brief opportunity in an overly structured world where this minor act frees my spirit briefly from civilized constraints. Whatever the reasons, I still wander down the middle now and then and feel the comforting embrace of control and the faint spirit of forbearers who moved about without defined places and spaces to tell them where to walk. Given the chance, I’ll be the one you see placing foot in front of foot and heading down the middle, going somewhere.