Susan Fleming Morgans
Walk, Don't Run—or Ride!
Updated: May 12, 2019
"It's the little details that are vital.Little things make big things happen."
In my former life as a public information officer, aka, "cheerleader" for Mt. Lebanon, Pennsylvania, I often drove visitors or prospective residents on whirlwind tours showcasing our Pittsburgh suburb's vibrant business districts, distinctive neighborhoods, eclectic architecture, highly ranked schools and great public amenities. In retrospect, I didn't get out of the car enough.
My new life, which happily allows for leisurely dog walking, has honed my focus from the big beautiful picture beyond the window of my SUV to the myriad details that elude drivers, bikers or even runners. Often overlooked, these details, some random, some planned, help create the indelible impression that leads people to say, "Yep, I wanna live here."
Spring is a great time to take advantage of our network of sidewalks (be careful; some of them are a little wonky), strolling slowly and looking both up and down, as trees begin once again to shade our streets and carefully tended landscapes start blooming, revealing gems not easily seen from the road. Flowering shrubs, perennials (and even some weeds) that eventually will provide swathes of color are a sweet surprise, as their delicate blossoms open one by one.
The month of May, before the gardens reach their lush maturity, is the perfect time to notice charming details that enhance the landscape, individualizing homeowners' lots and plots, making personal statements and providing outdoor spaces where people can relax and enjoy the results of their creativity and hard work.
Look up, and you may not believe how tall the majestic street trees really are (no wonder Duquesne Light sometimes butchers them.) Pause to examine a venerable sycamore tree and appreciate the gorgeous light-and-dark patterns in the lumpy bark, an arresting trunk surpassed perhaps only by that of a paper birch. Stop at a clump of grasses and notice the cheerful curly whirly at the end of each graceful strand. Look down, and you might find beauty in a clump of mushrooms poking through the mulch or a rock with sparkles (that a kid would pocket, if it were a bit smaller).
A drive through any neighborhood reveals a variety of housing styles, many surrounded by brick or stone walls and fronted by sidewalks, and the occasional rumble of the tires may serve as a reminder of a brick street below, but only on a walk can you truly appreciate the whimsical architectural details of the houses and the beautiful patterns and colors in the simplest of man-made things, from a stone wall to a brick street to a lowly sewer grate.
And finally, a walk is a reminder of the small but important details that turn streets into neighborhoods and houses into homes—like this sweet puppy who couldn't wait to introduce himself to my 80-pound shepherd. And this toy lawn mower, abandoned by a toddler who was probably taking a nap. (I'm going to ask his mother to put my name on his list, so he'll cut my grass in10 years. It's so hard to find good landscapers!)
So here's my (unsolicited) advice to anyone thinking about moving here (or anywhere for that matter.) Abandon your wheels, at least for a short time, and stroll through the neighborhood you're considering to get a feel for its character. Not only will you see the value in the details, as the late great coach John Wooden noted in the quote at the top of this page, but you'll also get some exercise, which Coach Wooden also knew a great deal about (but we'll save that for another time).
And if you've already moved in, it's not too late to get out and explore. Have fun!