Little Local Joys: Silly Walks Zone

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Glencairn resident Kit Carlson demonstrates her silly walk in a newly established jurisdiction in front of her home.

Walk this way. Or that way. Or any which way you choose. Just make it silly when you’re in the zone.

In late April, Glencairn neighborhood resident Kit Carlson was inspired to recreate Monty Python’s “Ministry of Silly Walks” sketch on the 30-feet of East Lansing sidewalk in front of her Cape Cod. She set up two signs to designate the beginning and end of the Ministry of Silly Walks Jurisdiction—complete with a graphic of the Minister of Silly Walks himself: John Cleese.

That was encouragement enough for passersby to get silly.

“Some kids came down and all the girls did silly walks,” Carlson said. “A few kids also did crab walks, a mom came later and was twirling her child in a stroller. There are just a lot of ways to walk and get silly in a quiet sort-of way.”

Carlson got the idea after a friend told her of a family in Grosse Point Park who set up a silly walk zone. Facebook posts showed walkers with dozens of inventive ways to get from start to finish—including steps that evoked swim relays or the Village People anthem “YMCA.” Since then, silly walk jurisdictions have popped up in several cities state-wide.

“I decided to set up a zone, too, especially since I was having a grouchy day,” she said. “I’m also a total Monty Python fan and always have been.”

Carlson has done the silly walk herself. She was seen running on her tiptoes with her arms behind her when she and her husband were returning home from walking the dog. Her husband stepped up and got silly, too, turning around and spinning when he entered the zone.

Neighbor Clark Burkle isn’t as inclined to cut loose. But he does like seeing the occasional antics when he passes by his picture window now and again.

“I see probably two or three people in front of Kit’s house a day,” he said. “One of the funnier times wasn’t even someone doing a silly walk though. A guy was walking on the other side of the street, crossed over to read the sign, then crossed back over again. He wouldn’t walk in front of the house.”

Carlson hopes the silly walk zone can helps brighten someone’s day as they stroll around the neighborhood during this time of quiet isolation and quarantine. She said she’ll keep the signs up for as long as they can survive the vagaries of spring weather, and welcomes anyone to walk the walk located between N. Harrison Road and Oakwood Drive in the Glencairn neighborhood.

“We’re all living in in the reptilian part of our brain right now—that lower area of fight or flight,” she said. “We need to activate our mammalian brain more—the higher level that is more playful—and get out of that fearful lock-down place we’re all living now.”

ELi’s “Little Local Joys” series is sharing small things that bring us joy and hope during the coronavirus outbreak. Do you have a little local story of joy or a tale of hope you would like to share? Click here for details. We would love to hear from you!

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