Stories from the corner of 37th and Nicollet

staying on the path

I tend to get distracted.

A lot.

Especially when I am out on walks.

Perhaps it is because I notice so much.  Not a good thing, actually.   If I see it, I need to stop and check it out a little more carefully.  If I hear it, I stop to look for it.  If I catch a smell, I’ll follow it until I reach its source.  A temperature change? Yep, I’ll stop and ask why.  Walking with me can be a bit tedious, waiting for me while I examine a bug on a leaf, or needing to listen to me exclaim how the sunlight filters through a tree to set a particular small blue flower on display.

Best to walk alone, I have found.


With my students, it became a game of I SPY every time we went on walks.  At first they would stop and stare and shake their heads and complain that they just couldn’t see it.  Eventually, they too began to sharpen their senses to things that otherwise would leave little impression. 

Not such bad thing, after all.

To notice what is taking place around you.

It makes me feel very connected to my environment.  I feel like I am getting the whole show. I think, that perhaps, like an artist, that the beauty of the world is not getting lost on me.

It can get a bit tiring though.


Noticing things that might actually distract me from what I am really looking for.


And so I try to regain my focus.

My best tool when walking with my students was to bring a camera, not a digital camera (those notice far too many things and don’t know how to stop noticing until they just run out of battery power) but my 35mm-high-school-graduation present Pentax with one 36 print roll of film. 36 choices to tell the story of the walk.  36 images to bring into focus.  With so many things to notice, having the limit set for me would help me stay disciplined about the walk.  I would pace the photos, make choices about what to notice and where to focus.  And sadly know that many things would be left unsaid.


There is a swirl of activity going on around my café and me this summer.  Movements are afoot.  New businesses appearing left and right.  Trends coming and going. Big news and little news.  Openings and closings. So many things to notice. So many things to pull me off the path and into the rushing traffic (or bikes or buses or trains).  It’s tiring to notice so much. It’s distracting.


And so, with the scoop and pull of a shovel, I have spent some mornings and afternoons, moving compost.  Scoop, pull, drop.  Focused on one path to garden bed and back.  Scoop, pull, drop.  Moving a hill of compost to begin another community building project.  Back to the green path.  Back to the beginning really.  Back to the dream that brought me to 37th and Nicollet in the first place.


With so many things to distract me this summer, I have chosen to center myself on a garden task: to bring an urban garden to life along a boulevard that was anything but alive.  

It has been a slow, challenging start to the 37th Street Community Garden.  I walked past an established boulevard garden on a recent Sunday and sighed…oh, so far to go.  Years, in fact, of tending and focus are ahead to help a little stretch of 37th Street become a community’s shared garden path.  But with each new transplant, each neighborly interaction, each new face offering a bit of assistance or advice, something is growing.  I return to the pile of compost, a little smaller today, and choose to move forward.

And I get distracted.

There are so many things to distract me from the tasks.

And I notice things.

Today, the summer sun was casting shadows directly east to west along the boulevard.   Perfectly parallel to the sidewalk – a shadow line of a utility pole connecting the beds and pointing onward to Nicollet.

I noticed that. 

It made me smile.