The Joys of Walking, Together and Solo

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  • How to Live a Long, Healthy Life
  • Use Cruise Ships to House Homeless People
  • Toxic Military Bases
  • Song of the Crickets

Credit…Illustration by Shoshana Schultz/The New York Times

To the Editor:

I enjoyed Lydia Polgreen’s Sept. 24 column, “No, I Don’t Want to Go for a Walk With You,” and related to her love of solitary thinking time.

I’ve run every single day since Jan. 1, 2011, and recently passed a cumulative distance of 24,901 miles (the distance around the Equator). Most of those miles have been solo — no music or company. Just me and my thoughts. It’s an invaluable quiet time that’s led to ideas, insights and questions that have helped me as a runner, father, husband and leader.

That said, there is so much joy and learning when I do have a chance to run with other people from time to time. In fact, the depth and relative ease of those conversations were what inspired my family to start Talk a Mile, a nonprofit in Portland, Ore., that connects young Black leaders with local police academy trainees for one-on-one conversations.

They literally walk, talk, listen and learn together for one mile. Participants say it’s a deeply impactful experience that has them feeling both seen and heard.

So, I guess I’d suggest to Ms. Polgreen that she open up to the idea of a walking partner. Just not every day.

Justin Fogarty
Portland, Ore.

To the Editor:

I could not disagree more with Lydia Polgreen. Sure, I can appreciate a solo walk (with a podcast, audiobook or phone call to keep me company), but I get many more steps in when I’m in conversation face to face and feet by feet. My absolute favorite form of exercise is walking and talking — in person — with a friend.

Jessica Benjamin
Bronxville, N.Y.

To the Editor:

Lydia Polgreen is in very good company. In his essay “Walking,” Henry David Thoreau extols its virtues, although he prefers wilder locales than the urban environs she describes. He also comments that the ideal companion for a walk is usually no one at all.

“I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art of Walking,” he writes in the essay.

In his journal he goes further: “With most the walk degenerates into a mere vigorous use of your legs, ludicrously purposeless, while you are discussing some mighty argument, each one having his say, spoiling each other’s day. … I know of no use in the walking part in this case.”

Thoreau was a committed walker, “four hours a day at least” — a commitment most of us would find challenging.

Dennis Minsky
Provincetown, Mass.

How to Live a Long, Healthy Life

Credit…Michael Haddad

To the Editor:

Re “Focus on Living Healthier Instead of to 100,” by Dr. Dave A. Chokshi (Opinion guest essay, Sept. 30):

Most of what people can do to live longer — and especially healthier — lives is not within the control of doctors, nurses or governments, but rather in the hands of each of us.

The American Heart Association recommends eight ways to keep healthy. Research shows that only a small percentage of Americans follow these recommendations, which include frequent exercise, a healthy diet, not smoking, and, yes, maintaining a healthy body weight.

But governments have a role, too. The “nanny state” actually works at keeping people healthy, as shown by the dramatic decrease in smoking rates following government actions since the first surgeon general’s report on smoking in 1964.

And policy failures can make people unhealthier: It’s hard for someone afraid of getting shot while walking to get sufficient daily exercise; it’s hard for someone living in a food desert to eat a healthy diet. And without exercise or a healthy diet, it’s hard to maintain a healthy weight.

Research shows that people live longer and healthier lives in countries with less income inequality, and that those countries spend far less than the United States on health care for their citizens.

Perhaps even conservatives will be persuaded to help the country take action, since it’s shown that government efforts not only reduce mortality, but actually save health care costs and increase productivity, too.

Daniel Fink
Beverly Hills, Calif.
The writer is a retired internist.

Use Cruise Ships to House Homeless People

A homeless encampment in Phoenix in February.Credit…Todd Heisler/The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “A Rare Alliance Forms to Clear Homeless Camps” (front page, Sept. 28):

Last year 18 cruise ships were sent to the scrap yards — scrapped because they did not have the amenities of newer ships. Most of the ships had between 1,000 and 2,000 berths.

A very clear and fast solution to the homeless housing crisis would be to use retired ships in any city with a port. A ship would offer occupants safe, clean bedrooms with individual showers and television. Ships have all the needed kitchen and dining facilities, laundry, common spaces, heating and air-conditioning. They could be used until suitable housing is built in the future.

Some advocates for the homeless do not like the idea because it would take the problem off the streets and they are worried about out of sight, out of mind. But it would seem that housing homeless people immediately is more important than optics.

Stephen T. Schreiber
Princeton, N.J.

Toxic Military Bases

Empty buildings at Fort Ord in Seaside, Calif. Credit…Cayce Clifford for The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Long Shuttered, Military Bases Are Still Toxic” (front page, Oct. 1):

While the article about our country’s numerous shuttered and toxic military bases was an upsetting and frustrating read, none of it is at all surprising. Our government has always found the funds to wage war, but there never seems to be enough funding to tend to the aftermath.

Soldiers sickened by myriad toxins, populations on the receiving end of military carelessness or egregious errors, and countless examples of environmental damage are consequences that we’ve come to accept as the cost of military activity.

Hundreds of abandoned bases now sitting unusable and threatening communities that once supported them are just more evidence of the Pentagon’s skewed priorities and harmful neglect.

Marianne Curtis
Scottsdale, Ariz.

Song of the Crickets

Credit…Jérôme Berthier

To the Editor:

Re “In the Crickets’ Song, Thoreau Heard ‘Take Your Time,’” by Lewis Hyde (Opinion guest essay, Sept. 25):

I had always thought it was the constant company of the crickets’ song in the fall that was a comfort. But maybe it was their message that soothed, as Mr. Hyde suggests, that in a world of calendars teeming with obligations, where we seem to do nothing but rush, I can take my time.

Still, there is an underlying wistfulness in their song as well, at the drawing in of the year, a sadness at the end of things, perfectly mirrored in the turning of the leaves and their own last full-throated splash of color before they too go silent and drift to the ground.

The crickets’ departure with the first frost is all the more painful for its abruptness. But then the chickadees and nuthatches return to my feeder from a summer and fall of sustenance in the woods and grasses, to chirp and chatter and cheer me. So too will the crickets be back, once again in full song at the twilight of the year.

Margaret McGirr
Greenwich, Conn.

To the Editor:

“Take your time” and value your time, Thoreau advises. At the age of 90, visiting a daughter along the Essex coast in Massachusetts, I am greeted this morning by a cricket, at eye level on the screen door, seemingly reminding me of my precious time, and to use it well.

Joan May Maher
Essex, Mass.

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