The first time I commuted by any means other than my car was in October of 2009. I was participating in the No Impact Project, a week of abstaining from ordinary and carbon-heavy activities like driving a car, eating meat, and generating trash. Being that it was fall in Colorado (translation: sunny, cool, the bluest skies, golden brown fields), my favorite part of the week quickly became the forty minute bus ride to Brighton and then the bike ride to my office that, for three miles, straddled the absolute edge of the Denver Metro area and the beginning of the eastern plains of Colorado. It looked a lot like this…
Returning home in the evenings, I would disembark from the bus prematurely and ride home through a city park in the dusk. I was ecstatic that week. Elated. High on life, to quote my dad. My commute had transformed from a stress-inducing, I’m-always-late-and-it’s-always-someone-else’s-fault ordeal, into exercise, downtime, and adventure. Even better, I found myself experiencing autumn in a way that I never had before– as an ever-evolving, ephemeral enigma.
I’m a big fan of fall. It probably counts as one of the top three reasons I relocated from Florida to Colorado. But, with work and school and life, I consider myself lucky if I log one good hike in during the season. When I spent my week commuting by bus and bike, however, I was experiencing fall on a second-by-second basis. Leaves were changing and falling in front of me. Birds gripped onto the fat seed heads of grasses and pecked them into straw. The first snow of the year fell that week (on a Wednesday), and I rode my through it, conscious (terrified, really) of the new relationship that my tires had with the pavement.
Now, I’ve lived in Colorado for twelve years, and that year, 2009, is the only year I have any idea what day of the week the first snow of the year fell. That has to be because I was paying attention that week, in a way that I can’t pay attention when I’m ensconced in a climate controlled car, listening to the same music that I would listen to every other day of the year, noticing the red lights and not the red leaves.
Many of the elements of my No Impact Experiment in 2009 have made repeat performances in my life. Thanks to that project, television, plastic bags, and fast food have largely disappeared from my life. But I am a car person. I love the act of driving, particularly on country roads and empty interstates.
So this project, A Year of No Driving, is overdue. It’s time I face up to my dependence (love affair?) with air conditioning and running to the grocery story every time I have a craving. Next week, I’ll flesh out the parameters: what I will and will not do during my Year of No Driving.