I’ve been walking, just not making the time to post. So instead of “On Today’s Walk,” I’m doing a small compilation from the past few days. Even when you walk the same routes over and over for years, you’ll still find surprises.
What exactly is happening on this retaining wall? Is this the aftermath of a battle, with the victor standing triumphant? Or is it an act of compassion, with a friend rushing to aid a fallen companion?
Hmmm..what are those two things in the middle of the grass, visible from thirty feet away?
Maybe a closer investigation is in order:
Aha! Wow, those are big! How big?
And finally: always expected, yet still a surprise with their sudden appearance every year. My first surprise lily sighting of 2021.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Winter Queen brushed her fingertips along the landscape as she went by.
My son-in-residence consented to walk around the neighborhood with his old mom today. We live in an interesting part of the city and always find something new to catch our attention. The neighbors did not disappoint today.
I should note the skeletons and tree stump art are not in the same yard.
Today’s walk happened in the last 40 minutes of sunlight. My neighborhood is not too far from downtown, but also not too far from a couple of trailheads that go into a wooded corridor.
Barred owls were calling to each other. Whoo-hoo-hoo-HOO. Whoo-hoo-hoo-HOO. Where are you? I’m here. Like my husband and I yelling, “What?” to each other from different rooms.
And the neighborhood gang that has been raiding yards and gardens was caught in the act (see above.) I’ve watched these young ‘uns grow up during the course of this year, having seen them first when the two tawny ones were awkward spotted fawns stopping traffic in front of my house.
I don’t know why it surprises me when animals adapt and make their homes in cities. I’ve done the same thing, after all. I can’t begrudge them too much for the tomatoes they’ve eaten. They left us plenty, and we humans keep taking more and more land for buildings. They’ve got to feed the family somehow.
Lately, I’ve been pretty exhausted by my job and things. Stuff. Events. Tasks. Overthinking. Worry.
Normally I work Tuesday evenings. But I had some vacation time to use, so I’m able to blog instead. I couldn’t have better timed my ask for random hours off. Gorgeous evening for walking and trying to focus on the miracle that is every day nature.
Amazing how life can look so different if you change your vantage point. Perspective is a heck of a thing.
Strolling about the neighborhood today, I ran across the above sign in someone’s yard, a quote from one of my favorite authors, Ursula K. Le Guin:
“Love doesn’t just sit there, like a stone, it has to be made, like bread; remade all the time, made new.”
This is from her novel, The Lathe of Heaven. I know I read it many years ago, but I forget a lot a the details. What I remember is that the main character is a man whose sleeping dreams change reality. But nobody else seems to notice.
This quote, though. It’s so true about the nature of love. It requires intention. There are other sayings along the same line that I’ve found to be true as I go through life. Here’s one: love is a verb. Don’t recall where I read that, but yes. It’s not a vague warm glow, it’s got to be active to have any positive effect.
Here’s another: Love is a choice. You choose how to treat someone. There might or might not be a pleasant emotional feeling while doing so. But the more you make that choice, the more likely you are to develop a pleasant feeling about it. At least, that’s my experience.
Actively choosing to find ways to reach out to our neighbors while we’re all separated is love manifested.