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Wednesday, February 19, 2020
Matt Green Describes His Exercise in Paying Attention
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Matt Green, flanked by Lisa Adam and 20 other people, snowshoed through the woods north of Ketchum this past week.
 
Sunday, January 26, 2020
 

STORY BY KAREN BOSSICK

PHOTOS BY KAREN BOSSICK AND MATT GREEN

Matt Green took a tentative step forward, calculating what it would feel like to step into the snow with a snowshoe on his foot.

The New Yorker had walked 3,100 miles across the United States and nearly 8,000 miles along every street and walking path in New York City. But he had never walked in snowshoes until Kristine Bretall outfitted him with a pair and invited Sun Valley residents to join him on a walk through the woods behind the SNRA headquarters.

 
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“This stegosaurus of a standpipe connection is one of the many tushie terrorizers conspiring to make the city’s street inhospitable to the weary keisters of pooped-out pedestrian,” said Matt Green.
 

“I’ve never had the opportunity to snowshoe before. It’s actually enjoyable,” enthused Green.

Green came to Sun Valley this past week at the invitation of the Sun Valley Center for the Arts, which showed the documentary film “The World Before Your Feet” about Green’s walk through New York City as part of its new BIG IDEA “The Bottomlessness of a Pond: Transcendentalism, Nature and Spirit.”

The program also featured a well-attended play reading starring Kagen Albright titled “The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail.”

Bretall said Green seemed like a modern-day Thoreau: “Not only does he spend so much time outdoors but he notices what’s around him.”

 
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Matt Green took this picture of a repurposed fan cage while walking through New York.
 

Green showed slides of his walk across America and around New York to students at Wood River Middle School and Hemingway STEAM School, who peppered him with questions.

Green told them that his career as a walker started when he quit his desk job as a civil engineer in 2010 to set out on a five-month journey from Rockaway Beach, N.Y., to Rockaway Beach, Ore. The walk, which took him through Minnesota, the Badlands of North Dakota, Montana, the Idaho Panhandle and along the Columbia River Gorge, started March 27 and ended Aug. 25.

“It rained the first couple days I set out. After that, I never looked back,” he said.

Green packed his food, water, clothes, tent and sleeping bag in plastic bins, which he pushed in a three-wheel baby stroller. He also included a bright yellow toilet plunger in case a dog challenged him.

 
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Matt Green said he’s run across banana plants in people’s gardens in New York, but this is the first he’s ever seen bearing fruit.
 

He mapped out his trip using a Google walking app, which meant his road sometimes ended at the edge of a lake or in a farmer’s field. A couple times his stroller got stuck in mud.

“It was a big revelation to me how much you can see in areas people don’t typically go on vacation for fun,” he said, showing the students a picture of a field full of sunflowers. “On foot it’s easy to see how beautiful the world is.”

Green said about three of four people he asked let him camp in their yard. Some invited him to share dinner with them.

An Amish family showed him the LED lights they’d substituted for lanterns on their buggy. Monks at a monastery invited Green to share breakfast with them in silence. One retired man, known for playing his saxophone at the University of Wisconsin quad every day, put on a puppet show for him. Another spotted Green walking along the road, drove home to start up the barbecue and returned with beer and brats.

 
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Disciples of Sri Chinmov created the world’s largest tennis ball mosaic—10,084 balls—in honor of their guru’s 84th birthday.
 

“I had so many people stopping to see if I needed something to eat or drink that I began thinking: Maybe I’m not just lucky. Maybe most people are nice.”

Originally, Green thought he’d return home and find another desk job.

“But I realized that the five months I spent walking across North America had been the happiest time in my life. And it didn’t cost a lot since I stayed in people’s houses and abandoned barns,” he said.

So, Green settled on another adventure—this time walking every road and path in New York City. He’s taken thousands of photographs of the things he’s seen along the way from a rusty bicycle hanging in a tree to trolls in front of a laundromat. And he’s saved 25,000 of them, sharing many on his blog at www.imjustwalkin.com.

“Many of these are not tourist attractions—they’re just beautiful little moments. Moments of discovery,” he said, showing a photo of three arched bridges reflected in a pond.

Green has also researched many of the things he’s seen, such as fig trees brought to New York and planted by Italian immigrants, the tall grasses that now cover the world’s largest landfill, the first women’s health clinic and  the wild turkeys that walk on the streets of Staten Island.

As with his walk across America, Green has found lodging via couch surfing and cat sitting jobs, managing to sustain himself on $15 a day. He’s wandered through neighborhoods that he said seemed like he was in a foreign country.

He’s lent a hand when needed, such as turning on a light switch or an air condition for Orthodox Jews who are forbidden from working on the Sabbath. And he’s met interesting characters, such as the guy in Queens who turned his beard into a pony tail.

He’s also found some curiosities that he loves to share with audiences, such as the drastic measures some business owners have taken to keep people from using the sprinkler connections that emerge from their building to sit their coffee or themselves on.

“Some of these elaborate devices look like medieval torture devices,” he said, showing an array of spikes placed on the pipes.

Green spent part of his time here walking around Ketchum and Hailey.

“It was amazing how I just had to look up and see all this beauty that was so different from that on the East Coast,” he said.

Green is a couple hundred miles short of walking every street and path in New York after eight years. But he hasn’t yet decided on what is next.

“I thought the New York project would take 2 and a half years,” he said. “But it became an exercise in paying attention to all the things you would normally tend to overlook. And I have learned that the world is an incredible place and worth getting out and exploring.”

EDITOR’S NOTE

Matt Green took time out from walking around Ketchum and Hailey for an interview with Eye on Sun Valley. Check it out at 7:30 tonight at Cox Cable Channel 13.


 

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