Placemaking

Going slow. Shovelling snow.

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My biggest goal and greatest challenge is going slow. When I have succeeded at stopping my body from moving my mind goes on. And on. I don't think this experience is a unique one. This seeming need to be in constant motion is a function of my nature, I'm sure, but is also no doubt spurred on by the pace we are expected to keep in today's world. In doing my best to keep up, I walk and bike less than I would like to. 

This month's chapter talked about the effects of biking and walking, especially for increasing our sense of place attachment. Combining this knowledge with my ongoing goal to go slower in general I decided to end as many work days as possible a half hour earlier than usual. I would walk, rather than drive, to pick up my kid from daycare.

This was hard, mostly because I like to think in thirty minutes I can produce a lot – send more emails, write more words, get caught up on the news (i.e., scroll aimlessly through social media). In the end, thirty minutes at the end of the day wasn't much to give up. I realized, though probably already knew, this time of day is not productive for me at all – my brain is moving slowly and it's a real slog to get much done. So, a walk at the end of the day might actually be the best thing for me - our dog gets out for a walk, I listen to a podcast or some music, and I also spend a little bit of time by myself, something I love to do. 

Frigid temperatures and the snow accumulating on sidewalks made walking difficult some days, though. The challenge of navigating a stroller and our 60+ pound dog along snowy sidewalks has been an important reminder of how difficult it can be for older adults or people with physical disabilities, for example, to get around during the snowy months and how this restricted mobility can result in feelings of isolation that could contribute to anxiety or depression, as this article describes.

While snow removal on residential sidewalks in Waterloo is the responsibility of the homeowner, chapter two has me reflecting about alternative possibilities for sidewalk snow removal. In this Twitter thread I chatted with a few people about alternatives (like heated sidewalks!) including Robin Mazumder, a University of Waterloo doctoral candidate whose expertise lies in strengthening urban communities, including improving infrastructure so that cities become more walkable and bikeable. Snow removal can be a matter of life and death in his view and even if "citizens must do their part", as he said on Twitter last year, he also believes "cities should take responsibility for sidewalk maintenance".

What were your thoughts while reading chapter two?

More on going slow

I'm currently taking a long time to read a very short book that encourages going slow in an academic environment.

On a favourite podcast of mine, Edit your Life, they talk about going slow a lot and this recent episode talks about the benefits of doing so during the holiday season, like for seeing Christmas lights and how moving slowly can help you discover your neighbourhood differently, mirroring what Warnick says about walking around where she lives:

On foot, going slow, I saw its details. Attic windows made of old-fashioned wavy glass. Gold stone lions keeping vigil outside the Sigma Alpha Epsilon house. I entered a narrow alleyway I'd never seen before, which revealed Secret Garden style, a tiny church across from a miniscule park (p. 42)

More on city infrastructure

Live in Waterloo? Sign up for the City's new upcoming newsletter about active transportation.

Examining snow removal and other policies through a gendered lens.


Still want to join the book club? It's okay if you have yet to start the book. Don't even want to get the book, but still want to follow along? Sign up for my newsletter for book club updates and my musings about how I'm putting what I learn into practice. 

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Source: Centre for Indigegogy, Wilfrid Laurier University

Source: Centre for Indigegogy, Wilfrid Laurier University

When you roll into your town and sigh, "It's good to be home," that's a product of place attachment

It's at the house with the swans, on the busy street just around the corner from our home, where I get the feeling that might indicate I have a strong place attachment - "the affectionate, almost familial connection that can form between us and where we live" (p. 16). Though you might not hear the sigh, it happens deep in my body – a sense of relief knowing the drive is almost over and I am about to plop into my own bed, almost always with the clothes I came home in still on and teeth unbrushed. 

I was surprised, then, to find that according to the adapted assessment on p. 16-17 in This is where you belong: Finding home wherever you are (* I know, I know; this isn't evidence-based, but who doesn't love a buzzfeed style quiz like this? By the way, who is your style icon?), I am what you could probably call connected, though maybe not strongly connected, to where I live. This might shed some light on why I can find myself spiralling into REALTOR.ca searches, something the book's author also admits to, and how I am attuned to noticing For Sale signs in many of the places we visit, something many Americans also apparently do. And I can't be the only one who goes into open houses "just because I like to see how people decorate." 

Feeling connected is pretty good, really, but how might I deepen my sense of place attachment? Following Warnick's 10 basic place attachment behaviours (the next ten chapters!), which she developed after a lot of research and even more conversations, I'm about to embark on a journey to become more connected to where we live. In doing this, I'll remember something Warnick learned through her research: "Small actions mattered. They could change a city, and they could also, I hoped, change the way I felt in my city." 

In talking about place and space, I want to highlight there are tensions that accompany placemaking initiatives and efforts to revitalize neighbourhoods. For example, these can have the effect of pushing some - oftentimes long term - residents out of their homes because they can no longer afford higher rent costs that come along with gentrification. I also want to position this project I am embarking on, to love where I live, in context: because of colonisation and its lasting legacy that continues to negatively impact Indigenous Persons, I write these posts on traditional Indigenous territory:   

"Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario is located on the traditional territory of the Neutral, Anishnawbe and Haudenosaunee peoples. We are grateful for all the Indigenous people who continue to care for and remain interconnected with this land. Miigwech, Nia:wen for knowing that our ongoing survival is connected to the land" (Source: Centre for Indigegogy, Wilfrid Laurier University).

Let's see what an online book club can do – in the comments, share your thoughts on chapter one; what makes you feel connected, or not, to where you live; or, who your style icon is! You can also write to me personally. I'd love to hear from you! 

And if you're new here – hi! – this blog post gives more background about why I wanted to start this online book club.

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