Developing a Sense of Community, On Foot

Here in Cincinnati, it’s cold outside. That awful kind of cold where you start trying to brainstorm ways to add more layers to your day’s outfit. Where you feel your eyes starting to freeze shut as soon as you walk outside.  Where cold gives way to numb so quickly, you aren’t sure if you’re okay. It’s also getting dark earlier in the evenings, which is a winning combination.

Last Spring I transitioned my commute to work from being in a car to walking. I live less than two miles from work, so it’s easily walkable. Because my drive is all city driving and takes me through many intersections where I am apt to catch red lights, my travel to work increased by only 14 minutes, from 18 minutes to 32.

I love walking to work. I’m sort of obsessed with it. I end up going through Over-the-Rhine each day, which is an area quickly being gentrified overhauled. I can truly say that every day I noticed a new thing I think is beautiful, be it architecture, murals, people or plants. It’s also been a nice way to ready myself for the upcoming workday or decompress from a long day while I head home.

During the six months I spent walking to work, I made friends with some folks renovating a local restaurant so it could re-open after a fire. I added in a daily stop to say hello to an adorable dog and an entertaining shop owner. I met a child who calls himself Batman. I feel like I became a recognizable addition to the daily comings and goings of the neighborhood and was able to learn a little more about my community.

A photo posted by Kate (@katespointofview) on

Despite my intense love of the walk, I also love myself and so, for my own safety, I had to switch over to the city bus when it started getting dark in the evening. And now that the temperatures are in the single digits when I wake up, my morning commute is also via the bus. I hear people knock the Cincinnati bus system pretty often, but I have found it to be wonderful. Their app works great, the drivers have been helpful, the buses clean and I am easily getting to and from where I need to go.

A few days ago I messed up reading the bus schedule and didn’t want to wait around for the next one. I knew Wonder Boy was downtown so started making my way towards him. Along the 12 block walk, I talked to a woman about her dogs’ cute outfits. I heard a man make one of the funniest insults I’ve heard in a long  while. I spoke with another woman who was trying to figure out bus schedules. I cut down a different path than I normally take and admired what has to be one of the cities tiniest parks.

When I got into Wonder Boy’s car, I realized what it is I love about walking to work and walking throughout the city that I certainly didn’t get in my car and I’m also not getting on the bus. I was part of the community. I miss that sense of community and the interactions that came with it.

I look forward to warmer weather and sunnier days when I can rejoin the community I so love.

Visiting the Harriet Beecher Stowe House in Cincinnati, Ohio

How I wish you could see Walnut Hills … the road to it is as picturesque as you can imagine a toad to be … Much of the wooding is beech of a noble growth. The straight, beautiful shafts of these trees as one looks up the cool green recesses of the woods seems as though they might form very proper columns for a Dyrad temple.

This quote is one of many on display the Harriet Beecher Stowe house in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Harriet Beecher Stowe house in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Borin in 1811 in Litchfield, Connecticut, Harriet came to Cincinnati in 1832 when her father, Lyman Beecher, was asked to lead the Lane Theological Seminary. Harriet married Calvin E. Stowe in 1836 and gave birth to six of her seven children while living in Cincinnati.

Portrait of Harriet Beecher Stowe that is hanging in the Harriet Beecher Stowe house in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Although she was living back East when Harriet wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin, she drew on her experiences in Cincinnati, so near the border that marked the difference between slavery and freedom, while writing the book.

I’m embarrassed because I’ve been living in Cincinnati all my life and only just visiting this home … only just learned where this home was! Wonder Boy was riding his bike one day and rode past it, pretty stunned. We started planning a trip soon afterwards.

In fact, touring the Harriet Beecher Stowe house is sort of an odd affair. Harriet lived in Cincinnati for about 20 years but a lot of that time was spent in another home with her husband. The Harriet Beecher Stowe house is really a home that was built for her father Lyman Beecher, and his family. I like visiting old homes, though, because they hold little pieces of history. In this house, there are beautiful old pieces of furniture that match the period when the Beechers would have lived there, including a stunning old quilt.

I’ve always assumed that Cincinnati, being the gateway to freedom for many runaway slaves, would have been a hotspot of liberal perspectives on race relations. In fact, I learned during our tour, Lyman Beecher believed in colonization, which is the idea that slaves should be freed and then sent somewhere else. In 1834, the Lane Theological Seminary hosted a series of debates now known as the Lane Debates. Students led by Theodore Dwight Weld argued against colonization and for the abolition of slavery. The debates helped many people view slavery as a sin and see that the colonization notion of sending blacks back to Africa was wrong. (Oberlin College has a great collection of resources if you’d like to learn more about these debates.)

An antique quilt in the Harriet Beecher Stowe House in Cincinnati, Ohio.