As I string together the different places and stories that make up this walking tour, I’m remembering a couple things I read recently in Rebecca Solnit’s Wanderlust:

When you give yourself to places, they give you yourself back; the more one comes to know them, the more one seeds them with the invisible crop of memories and associations that will be waiting for you when you come back, while new places offer up new thoughts, new possibilities. Exploring the world is one of the best ways of exploring the mind, and walking travels both terrains.

We know how this works, the way that people connect to places: significant things happen in a certain spot, and that spot seems to contain a trace of that event. Inhabiting the space where something happened seems to have a special weight, be it personal or cultural: it’s why history classes take trips to empty fields (that maybe once were battlegrounds), or why returning to your childhood home can be such an emotional experience.

Doing the research for this tour has been an exercise in harvesting these “crops of memories” – and this kind of work makes me appreciate the funny, uneven layers of memory and history that are physically manifested in a neighborhood.

The way that cobblestone and railroad tracks sneak out from underneath pavement:

Seeing old commercial buildings, like the Eagle Warehouse, that have been converted into residences or artists’ work spaces,

Or noticing that some places are named after other now-gone places:

And though this tour isn’t exclusively historical, stringing together points of interest puts all these different moments and memories in conversation with each other, reminding me of Solnit’s other thought:

Part of what makes roads, trails and paths so unique as built structures is that they cannot be perceived as a whole all at once by a sedentary onlooker. They unfold in time as one travels along them, just as a story does as one listens or reads… a hairpin turn is like a plot twist, a steep ascent a building of suspense to the view at the summit, a fork in the road an introduction to a new storyline, arrival at the end of the story.

So with individual places containing stories, and the act of walking similar to telling or hearing a narrative, a walk that passes by landmarks, current businesses and residents, and the ongoing construction is a kind of meta-story, not just an experience that changes, but a narrative about change.

I really like seeing the words “historic” and “fabulous” right next to each other, in that order, on the bottom of this No. 1 Front Street plaque: