Women Walking: Book Thoughts

I’m happy to report I have a much lower degree of hitch in my git-along than I did the last time I posted. I still have to be mindful of how I move while doing certain tasks, but I can take walks again. I have even been on my bicycle. You may ask, what does an avid ambler do while sidelined? She reads about walking, of course!

I will read almost anything about walking and almost anything about women empowering themselves. I found a great combination of the two themes in Wanderers, a History of Women Walking by Kerri Andrews.

Andrews focuses on women who have written about their walking experiences. Some figures were familiar to me — Anais Nin, Virginia Woolf. Others were new introductions. I was particularly interested to learn of Dorothy Wordsworth, who exhilarated in day-long walks of twenty miles or more, and was every bit as accomplished as her brother William. I want to know more about her. I’m also planning to look up the work of Linda Cracknell. In fact, Wanderers grew my to-read list quite a bit.

In addition to profiling ten other women, Andrews also shares some of her own adventures in the mountains of Scotland and elsewhere. She was able to retrace a few of the walks mentioned by women who came before her, exploring her feelings as she follows their footsteps.

She adds a lot of context, too, about women’s lives in different locations and time periods, speaking of the challenges that kept, and still too often keep, our existences restricted. William Wordsworth was usually free to pick up and go at a moment’s notice, while his sister was tied down with domestic chores. And then there have been societal expectations on women’s behavior, plus the extra threats women face when striking out alone. Walking is great medicine, but it’s one some of us have to work for more than others.

I want to finish with a special note of appreciation for the author’s words about the value of walking and re-walking the same routes again and again. Doing this myself has turned out to be one of the most profoundly spiritual practices of my life.

On Today’s Walk: Slow and Easy

It rained here for nearly two solid months. I had forgotten what color the sky is when the clouds are gone. But the weather cleared up and became beautiful with pleasant temps just in time for the long weekend.

Unfortunately, I did something to my back. I woke up yesterday morning barely able to get out of bed and hobble to the bathroom as my muscles groaned, seized, and resisted movement. Things gradually improved after I’d forced myself to move around the house a little, put some ice on my back, and took ibuprofen.

By afternoon, my back felt A-okay. I thought, Well, that was unpleasant, but it’s over with. Guess I’ll go tackle some yard work. Things remained okay through an hour and a half of mowing and more.

Then I woke up this morning, once again barely able to move. I did what I refer to as the Igor Shuffle across my bedroom, pushing one foot forward a few inches, then dragging the other from behind to catch up with it. More ice packs and ibuprofen, combined with slow stretches throughout the day had it feeling mostly better by afternoon. But I learned my lesson. The weeding remains unfinished.

However, I talked my son — who currently has a slightly bum foot and also needs a to move more slowly than usual — into accompanying me on a little outing to Shelter Gardens, where we could make like the gentry and stroll at a leisurely pace, enjoying the results of someone else’s manual labor. I didn’t take many photos, but we found serenity lingering at the fish pond.


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On Today’s Walk: Drainage

When you’re a homeowner in Missouri, you spend a lot of time thinking about water flow and drainage. If you have a basement, you probably have a sump pump. The repeated hummmm-clunk on rainy days is just part of the soundtrack of your life.

I live in one of the oldest parts of our city, old enough that maps of the sewer system in our neighborhood have been lost to history. The municipal government is always going to do something to make sure the sewers are up to snuff around here, but they first have to figure out how they’re all networked. That’s been going on for a while. Once, they even sent someone into our home to blow smoke through our toilet while other workers were stationed at various access holes nearby to see which direction it was traveling. I’m not sure what they learned.

Drainage has been on my mind even more than usual lately because it’s been extremely rainy and also because my husband came up with a new plan for our sump pump drain. It’s always been a puzzle trying to determine the best place for the water to discharge. We had some pipe along the side of the driveway to a French drain at the end, but we share a driveway with an apartment building, and people kept driving over the curb while passing each other and damaging it. Then we’d get leaks that would cause slime in the summer and ice in the winter. After a lot of digging (division of labor roughly 85% spouse / 15% me), a few yards of pipe are now buried, with just the end emerging by the drain. Fingers crossed this will be the final iteration.

Ambling around the neighborhood lately, I’ve been paying attention to drainage pipes and grates. It’s amazing, once you notice it, what a large part of the infrastructure has to do with getting the water to flow a certain direction.



On Today’s Bike Ride: Perfect Easter Morning

Frieda and I decided it was the perfect morning for a bike ride — temp in the 60s, sunny, with the slightest gentle breeze. We took one of our most commonly traversed trail routes to a small lake area.

Many family groups were out walking. Good thing I have this delightful little bell to let folks know when I’m about to pass.

Bicycle bell

I love the bell because there’s nothing clangy about it. It gives a cheerful and polite “excuse me” chime that sounds friendly. One of my small joys of life is that minor interaction when I’m coming up behind a trail walker and put my thumb to the bike bell, then see the person acknowledge it with a tiny wave.

Also on the trail today were many dogs making sure their humans were getting fresh air and exercise. So many good doggos. Maybe some of them were heading to the dog park on the other side of the lake from where I stopped to rest and hydrate. I heard lots of excited barking carrying across the water.

Near my take-a-break bench a man sat in a camp chair with a fishing rod propped next to him, line dropped into the water. He didn’t appear to care whether anything was biting as he relaxed with his fingers interlaced behind his head in the ultimate no worries posture. I wanted to take a photo of him, but didn’t because I couldn’t get an angle without his face and decided I should respect his privacy. I’m sharing that he was there just so I can say that the amount of relaxation and peace he was generating felt contagious. Maybe seeking inner peace really does help the world around us.

Here’s Frieda, propped against the bench where we lingered to take in the scene for a while.

Bicycle propped at bench

I did a quick internet search to see if I could find any information on the Frank Patton who is memorialized on the plaque, but didn’t come up with anything. It’s nice that somebody wanted to remember him in a way that provides something good for the community.

We had to take it a little slow on the trail section that loops the lake:

Caution sign
Loose gravel did exist.

Whether or not you celebrate Easter, I hope all my readers are having a beautiful day. If the weather allows where you are, I highly recommend some outdoors time as a personal health measure.

On Today’s Walk: Spring at Last

It was funny — funny odd – after the time change last week that you couldn’t tell a difference around here. That’s because the sun didn’t come out from behind the clouds for about five days. It was like one continual night, with lots of rain. Kind of in tune with my spirits of late. Until yesterday, when things finally brightened.

Then came today, the first day of spring. I was able to walk in the sun this afternoon wearing jeans and t-shirt, no jacket. My son accompanied me. Once you get them through the teen years, they become willing to be seen with you again. They’ll even indulge you in things like stopping to snap pictures of new blossoms. I think this is a magnolia tree. Whatever it is, it made me happy.

On Today’s Walk: A Balmy 30

footprints in snow
Snowy walk

Considering what’s going on in other parts of the U.S., I know we’re lucky. We’ve only had arctic cold and a few inches of snow. One water pipe made a half-hearted attempt at freezing the other night when the temperature dropped well below zero, but my husband thawed it pretty quickly. Still, other than going to work, I’ve been hunkering inside a lot, as high temps were in the single digits for several days running, with predominantly gray skies and not much to lure me out.

Today the sun came out and we reached 30 degrees in the afternoon. I was able to walk a mile and a half without ever once feeling a body part might drop off. It was comfortable, in fact, other than some small spots of treacherous footing.

I don’t know if sunshine is more important to my emotional well-being than it used to be or if I’m simply more aware of how it affects me. But I experience a marked difference in how much life seems worth the effort to me depending on the amount of sunlight I experience. Same with my walks outdoors. Maybe they’re a bigger part of maintaining my mental health than they were in days past, or maybe I’ve gotten better at noticing. Whatever it is, I know I feel much better for having gotten outside and walked in the fresh air today. I remember that doing so needs to be a top priority.

“Walking is man’s best medicine.” – Hippocrates.
“Walking is also great medicine for people who are not men.” – Me.

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I Never Saw the Commercial

Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Pexels.com

I’ve spent the vast majority of my adult life not watching TV commercials. I didn’t own a television for a long time, and when I finally did get one, I never had cable. My viewing has been provided, for the most part, by DVDs and streaming services.*

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had some version of the following conversation:
Acquaintance: You know that TV commercial where…
Me: Blank stare
Acquaintance: You know. The one with the guy who…
Me: Slow head shake. No. No, I never saw it.

Some cultural phenomena pass me by altogether. It’s only in the last few days I’ve become aware of someone known as My Pillow Guy. I saw a news report saying My Pillow Guy visited the president at the White House to urge him to invoke martial law. Wait, what? Does anyone else know how odd that sounded, even without the martial law part, to someone who’d never heard of this particular peddler of headrests? Why did a pillow salesman have the ear of the president, and an interest in dictatorship? Was he hoping to force the populace to buy his cushions?

I quizzed my friends about him. Did everyone already know who he was? Has he been around a long time, or was he a manifestation of 2020, like the murder hornets? Did he come here from an alternate universe, maybe the same one that sent us evil J.K. Rowling? Are there other genres of him that I should be aware of? My Spatula Guy? My Throw Rug Guy?

By and large, my friends were aware of him, with one exception. None of them were surprised he was someone who would pal around with a person like the soon-to-leave head of state. I was told he’d been around for years, producing terrible infomercials, though his universe of origin has not been verified to me. There was no My Spatula Guy as far as any of them had heard — yet.

So now I know. I guess when you live in a really, really capitalist society, you have to watch the commercials to keep up with current events.

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*This isn’t a judgment on anyone else’s viewing habits, only providing context to explain my ignorance on this topic.

On Today’s Walk: Winter Walking

Here’s a game changer for my winter walks. A new coat, with much warmer sleeves than my old one. The temperature was 32, with a real feel of 27, but I was snuggly warm for two and a half miles. I also had on thermal underwear, so there’s that, too.

Winter coat
So warm.

The Winter Queen brushed her fingertips along the landscape as she went by.

Frosty shrubs

All hail the Queen!

Icy branches

Bow down before Her Majesty.

Ornamental grass bowed by snow

~~

That Lull Before the Renaissance

Photo by Oleg Zaicev on Pexels.com

My friend Liza posted on her Patreon page* about what Germans call “between the years,” that weird spell of time after Christmas but before the new year. Go read it. It’s entertaining and she dug up some interesting cultural information. Also, it reminded me that I wrote a poem on the very topic a couple of years back, not knowing there were entire national traditions surrounding this annual week of being at loose ends.


That Lull Before the Renaissance

That lull between Christmas and New Years Day
Is when pajamas serve as uniform
The chocolates are polished off
The one jigsaw puzzle of the year is assembled
Noble intentions gestate

We sleep in mornings 
Before the date arrives after which 
Every day
We’ll stir ourselves early 
To accomplish worthy deeds

We watch a few movies 
Before the date arrives after which
Every day
We’ll spend free time 
Working out and reading classics

We make grocery lists 
Full of carrots and broccoli
While crunching chips

We indulge and relax while we can
Before next week
When the work of the Renaissance begins


*Her Patreon also includes content behind a paywall that is well worth the low subscription price of pay what you can, if you’re looking for an independent author to support.

If We Make It Through December

I don’t listen to a huge amount of country music, but there are a few songs that speak to me. Oh, Merle, December is hard, isn’t it? Current mood.



December is the month of paradoxes for me and many others. I do love all of the holiday celebrations, but I struggle with the lack of light. This year, in particular, we all have an extra share of struggles, and the month is feeling to me like something to be endured while waiting for anything better. I have written a few poems about Seasonal Affective Disorder and I’ll share one here. Maybe I shouldn’t be so bold as to share my own efforts following the inestimable Merle Haggard, but what the hell? As long as I’m embracing the despair anyway?

December Days

Day pulls the covers in December, appeals
to me to join it in hiding.
Like the sun I will not bother
getting up much early. What for?
A few hours working at half power
seems enough; call it a day.

There’s nothing in this month
I want to see clearly. Why point up
the lack
of color, dormant
plants waiting for better times?
Nothing blooms, no birds
sing greetings
to morning.
Smarter than me, they have flown
to lands where December exists
as a quaint custom, where they have December
like Sweden has a king.
A crown there may be
or ornaments displayed to prove
the monarch or the month,
where forgetting is possible.
I need no reminders.

The season proves itself. I will try
ignoring it, hoping
it’s gone next time I look.
I will open my eyes
only half-way. I will pull the dark
covers over me.
Like the sun I will experience
the smallest amount of December 
I can manage.


I know I’ll get through it, and maybe even have a few moments of fun and joy. I always have before. And yes, I’m taking my vitamin D and getting exercise. But sometimes, a big component of getting through a rough time is acknowledging it’s a rough time.