Today’s Flyover People column as seen in The Emporia Gazette:



“Walking is also an ambulation of the mind,” essayist Gretel Ehrlich wrote.

This is my new addiction. Last fall I began a somewhat regular outdoor walking program. Winter kept me inside for months, but spring put me back out on the sidewalks of Emporia.

I walk for exercise, I walk for fun, and I walk to clear my mind. And it’s so easy. All you need is time and a good pair of shoes.

Occasionally, Dave and I will take evening walks in our neighborhood. When out with my friend Grace, she and I tend to wind our way either through Peter Pan Park or ESU’s wooded trails along the Neosho River.

When I walk alone, which is most of the time, I seldom have a plan. I’ll just take off in any direction and go for an hour. It always surprises me how far away from home I can get in 15 minutes.

Instead of driving to the post office to check for mail these days, I’ll walk. And I like to stroll to Reeble’s North if I only have a few things on my list. I can easily carry home what I need for supper, but it’s not the time to buy a 17-pound bag of cat food.

One day last week, I walked to Shelter Insurance at Sixth and Sherman. I prefer to make payments in person so that I can visit with my agent, Daryl Polzin. He likes to walk as well. And because 94 percent of my friends do not enjoy high temperatures, I was pleased to learn that, like me, Daryl is a fan of summer. “I don’t mind 100 degrees,” he said, “I just hate the cold.” But even for us, the heat and humidity may shorten our hikes during the next few months.

It’s when I’m on foot that I notice the architectural details of homes in central Emporia. In this older part of town, each house is different. I appreciate the variety of porches and doorways and roof lines.

Life is always in play in these neighborhoods. A young boy slammed the screen door on the way out of his house, then walked back and slammed it again for emphasis. A woman’s voice yelled at him from within. On a front porch, a guitarist played an Eagles tune, and from a hammock, a college student talked on her phone.

I meet walkers, joggers, cyclists, and see babies being pushed in strollers. One evening a motorcycle drove past, the woman pressed up against her man, her head leaning over his shoulder so they could have a conversation above the sound of the Harley.

When I see purple clematis vines on a post, I don’t automatically think of the clematis trellis at childhood home, yet a subtle feeling of home comes alive in my consciousness.

I notice lines of grass in between pieces of broken sidewalk. I see that some residents have put out Fourth of July decorations. I try to make sense of chalk drawings.

My mind follows various trails of thought – contemplating the people in my life, or the piece of writing I’m working on that day. The rhythmic left-right-left pattern seems to allow a different part of my brain to engage.

These walks are like satisfying a craving for chocolate. And with each venture, I know I’ll come back a better person. A hundred steps can jiggle the brain out of stale thoughts or out of a bad mood. My mind loosens its hold on some things that I thought were a certainty. Insights are awakened by the scent of wild roses or by a line of clouds dangling above the trees.

Because of this way of walking through the world, observing things both consciously and subconsciously, these daily jaunts have become one of my favorite writing tools. The simple act of walking seems to open pathways inside my mind; it makes connections in my writing that I’m not sure I would have made otherwise.

I’m not sure how long my walking addiction will last, but for now, I agree with Charles Dickens: “If I could not walk far and fast, I think I should just explode and perish.”


Copyright 2013 ~ Cheryl Unruh





  1. Good for you–good for you– since we are in the Ozarks hills now– we buzz around the resort in the golf cart!!! 🙂 It is a lot like riding a motor cycle– or on horse back– or in a convertable– you see & hear things that you don’t riding in a regular car & etc etc etc!!! I walk down the hill to our marina & back & forth across the length of the marian– on Lake Tancycomo–& then back up the hill again– we do that maybe 2 or 3 times a day when the waether isn’t HOT– Hot– Hot– but Lake Taneycomo is an average of 47 degrees as it feeds off the bottom of Table Rock Lake– so it is always cooler down on the lake!!! When the weather is cooler we walk more– BUT — I don’t do these Ozarks hills well– I grew up a flatlander!!!! 🙂

  2. A new concept for your column, Cheryl. Made me think of my my 34 mile walk of the original town site circa 1868 back in January of 2011 on the 150th anniversary of statehood.

  3. I’m not Cheryl— but it is a Mimosa tree– We have hundreds of them here in the Ozarks & all are blooming right now— almost as pretty as the Dogwoods in the Spring!!!!! 🙂

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