The interplay of snowy boardwalk planks, the fences to the right and the left, the footprints of an earlier walker and his dog, and the shadows left by the Sun’s warming rays made for a pretty scene on this morning’s trek.
Posts Tagged ‘Walking’
I bet I’ve stumbled on an uneven sidewalk hundreds of times — more likely, thousands of times — in my lifetime. So why do I feel a special humiliation whenever this commonplace blunder occurs?
The scenario is always the same. I’m shuffling along, mind wandering as I check out the scenery, and the next thing I know my toes catch on an uneven section of sidewalk and I’m pitching forward, herky jerky, looking like a bad vaudeville entertainer attempting some crude form of physical comedy. Oh, and there’s almost always someone getting ready to pass by, usually an elegant, graceful person striding purposefully ahead, who can smirk and chuckle inwardly at my ineptitude.
Whenever this happens, my cheeks and ears inevitably burn with shame. Why? No one wants to look like a clumsy fool, of course, but I do clumsy things all the time — whether it’s stubbing my toe on the bed frame or toppling a soda can or taking a bite of a sandwich and getting mustard on my tie. I also don’t think it’s the public aspect of it, either. I’ve knocked over bottles and glasses in restaurants without feeling that deep sense of mortification that I experience when one of those all-too-common sidewalk stumbles occurs.
I think the real reason is that walking is so very basic. It’s one of the first things we learn to do as infants, the building block for all of the higher motor skills like trotting, or skipping, or jumping. I was a late walker, so the embarrassment factor may go back to the fact that it took me a ridiculously long time to get the knack of balancing on my feet and putting one in front of the other without falling. Inwardly, I know that if you can’t walk down the sidewalk without almost going face first onto the pavement, you are showing that you lack the most fundamental form of coordination. You might as well go back to crawling.
There are morning walkers, and then there are morning joggers. Walkers uniformly greet each other with a hearty “good morning!” Some joggers, on the other hand, just . . . wave.
Actually, calling it a wave isn’t all that accurate, because there’s no side-to-side motion. It’s just a flip of the wrist and showing of the open palm, as if the jogger wanted to demonstrate that he isn’t carrying a knife or revolver. It’s like the hand that appeared above the head of Paul McCartney on the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band cover, which was supposed to be another of the clues demonstrating that McCartney was killed in a car crash. No wonder the joggers’ wave doesn’t exactly warm the cockles of my heart.
I’m not quite sure why the joggers’ wave bugs me. It’s a bit embarrassing to say hello and get the joggers’ wave in return, but that’s not the only issue. It’s like the joggers who do the flip wave think they are better than the walkers, because they’re moving faster and they wear spiffy jogging outfits and have bottles of water hooked at their beltlines, whereas the walkers look like they’ve just rolled out of bed. The joggers are willing to condescend to acknowledge the existence of the ant-like walkers — so far below the Olympian joggers — but they don’t want to be too familiar and encourage too much unwanted interaction.
Maybe I’m reading too much into this. Maybe the joggers just don’t want to let the walkers know that they are so gassed they can’t say hello without gasping for air. Maybe they can barely summon the energy to do their lame excuse for a wave without stumbling to the side of the road and sprawling on the grass.
I’ll think of that happy thought the next time I’m walking the dogs, say hello, and have to endure another desultory joggers’ wave.
It was cold, wet, and overcast all day yesterday, and on this morning’s walk we saw that the last few clouds were being swept away, leaving a powder blue sky behind. Low on the southern horizon the delicate wisps of clouds looked intentionally placed, as if The Great Artist had decided that the canvas called for a few deft, gray brushstrokes in the air in order to frame and complete the scene.
As we walked the high-altitude wind continued to work on the cloud shards, pushing them eastward and shredding them at the same time. Five minutes later, the delicate brushstrokes were gone.
Cloud formations teach you to enjoy the moment.
The trail promptly took me almost directly up the hillside, and almost immediately the huge Homestead building disappeared from view. The path meandered through the trees, not really going to any particular place, and not in a particular hurry to get there anyway. The destination was pretty much irrelevant — it was the journey itself that mattered.
Along the way I paused to admire a lichen-stained granite rock, the rusty color of a decaying tree stump, and the rushing of a nearby stream. Old trees had fallen and new trees were vying to take their place. Leaves were just getting ready to bring their color to the trees.
Although I love my music, I didn’t take my iPod along. There are times when music can only interfere with your appreciation of your surroundings. You march along, focused on one of your favorite songs, and you miss the rustle of a nearby squirrel through fallen leaves, or the smell of the clean, fresh air, or the look of sunshine filtering through the branches far overhead.
The trail was deserted, and it didn’t take long for me to be swallowed up by the silence and leave the sounds of civilization in my wake. Our lives are lived to a soundtrack of humming air conditioners and heaters, road noise, and human voices. We are so used to being immersed in noise that its absence has an almost physical impact. You notice the silence and feel a sense of wonder about it, and when you hear the chirping of a bird break that awesome silence, the birdsong is as pure and beautiful as any sound you have heard before.
Well, okay, maybe not the last part . . . but it was another fabulous day in Columbus, Ohio today. The New Albany leisure path was packed tonight with cyclists, joggers, multiple-dogwalkers like me, and folks just enjoying a fine stroll in the perfect weather.
Dogs, like people, move at different speeds. If you don’t believe me, take Penny and Kasey on a walk some time.
Penny is like an ocean liner. She typically moves in straight lines and at a steady pace. Kasey is like a speedboat. She darts in and out, back and forth, moving quickly from one momentary distraction to the other. For every mile Penny and I walk, Kasey probably walks two.
Penny is a powerful dog. When she sees a strange pooch, wants to check him out, and starts acting like the lead dog in the Iditarod — low to the ground, shoulder muscles bunched, rear legs straining — she’s not easy to restrain. I need a heavy nylon leash to control her lunges during those encounters. In comparison, Kasey seems lighter than air. With her, I use a scrolling zip line leash with a stop button. On our walks the feel of the line feeding out and whirring back in, as Kasey quick-steps from here to there, has become a familiar sensation.
With two dogs of different sizes, moving at different speeds and frequently in different directions, tangles become inevitable. Detangling is complicated by the fact that you can’t let go of either leash. The two options I’ve identified so far are the 360-degree spin — which I’m sure makes me look ridiculous to anyone watching from afar — and the behind-the-back leash-crossover hand-to-hand swap. As a result, I not only log some exercise on our walks, but get to work on my balance and fine motor skills as well.
Imagine our delight when Penny and I stepped outside at 5 a.m. this morning and it was . . . cool. Magnificently, delightfully cool!
After weeks of oppressive temperatures, scalding days and hot, sticky nights, the cool, fresh air was glorious to experience. I’m guessing that the overnight temperature had dipped into the mid-50s. It was like a shot of some ultra-powerful energy drink to feel the slight chill on the skin and hairs on my arms. We moved quickly through the crisp air, our pace keeping us comfortably warm, looking with pleasure at the stars and constellations etched brilliantly in the dark, clear skies.
By the end of the walk, with rose-fingered dawn just peeking over the eastern horizon, I happily realized that, for the first time in weeks, my shirt was not wringing wet with sweat at the end of our walk. After our journey through the welcome chill, my hot cup of coffee tastes especially good.
This morning was a milepost. After months where jeans and the Vassar hoodie were minimum requirements of the morning walk with Penny, today I was able to venture out quite comfortably in just shorts and a t-shirt.
I tend to measure the seasons not by the strict terms of the calendar, but in terms of standard clothing options. Who cares if, technically, it is still spring and will be until June 21? If it is warm enough at 5 a.m. to be outside in shorts, then that necessarily means we have moved into shorts weather, regardless of the tilt of the Earth’s axis or the definition of solstices.
And so the shockingly white, increasingly hairless legs come out of hibernation and are exposed to the eyes of an appalled world, and the summer-long quest for some kind of tan begins.
Paris makes me want to suck in my gut.
As you walk around the city, you can’t help but notice that there aren’t many overweight people here. Everybody, regardless of their age, seems to be thin, stylishly dressed, and moving fast. The contrast with America, where you see seriously obese people everywhere, is startling.
Why is this so? Maybe it is because more Parisians seem to smoke than Americans — at least, that’s the impression I get after a few days here — or maybe it is because food is expensive, and people have cut back a little on the chow-downs as a result. More likely, it is because this is a city of walkers and cyclists. On weekdays, you see people hustling down the streets to get to work or riding their bikes as part of their daily commute. My guess is that few Parisians follow the American model of going to their garage in the morning, hopping in their car, and then driving to a parking garage a block away from their workplace, where they will sit on their butts all day.
I also think there is a strong social disapproval of being overweight — implicit, perhaps, but nevertheless a factor. Everyone here wears fashionable clothing, from hats down to shoes. If you want to join everyone else and be part of the haute couture parade, you’ve got to keep the weight off. It’s hard to look stylish, and Parisian, if you are hauling around an extra 60 pounds.
We’ve reached the time of year where the ancient weather gods can’t seem to make up their minds. It is warm one day and freezing the next. Snow melts, but before the water evaporates it freezes again, leaving sidewalks, roads, and driveways coated with a thin sheen of ice.
It makes this the most treacherous time of year for the morning walker. In the dim, pre-dawn hours, it is virtually impossible to distinguish a cleared asphalt walking path, where the confident walker can move with long, careless stride, from a frozen surface that even a sure-footed polar bear would hesitate to cross. As a result, the careful walker proceeds head down, with penguin gait, scanning the immediate path ahead for patches of snow that might provide better traction and making split-second judgments about whether to risk a tentative step out onto a questionable surface.
Because — make no mistake — it is that first step that is crucial. If you’ve ever slipped on ice, you know the feeling. You take the step, your foot slides immediately and unpredictably, and suddenly you are grasping the air, adrenalin surging, arms waving like a person trying to fend off a bee attack, as you try to regain your balance. (And try doing so when, in one hand, you have a leash attached to a zig-zagging dog.) You desperately hope to avoid the horrible realization that you have failed, and you are going down. Because when you fall, whether you land on your keister or your side, the physical impact is less significant than the fact that you feel and look like a complete idiot.
Yes, it is an exciting time of year for morning walks.
It rained all day on Thanksgiving — putting in a serious crimp in traditional backyard football games throughout the Columbus area — and then about midnight a cold strong front moved in. When Penny and I took our walk this morning, we encountered falling temperatures and a frigid west wind. We also made our first sighting of patches of ice on the sidewalk.
There is a delicate beauty to newly formed ice. Brittle shards of ice lance across the surface of the freezing water, pinning stray leaves underneath. The surface quickly becomes a crazy quilt of etched patterns that glint in the morning sunlight and crack open with a satisfying crunch.
It’s important to appreciate the beauty of ice upon its first appearance. I will be cursing its presence soon enough.
I am sorry to say that my favorite walking shoes are starting to give out. They are black Reebok walking shoes, and I think they are the single best pair of shoes I’ve ever owned.
I bought the shoes seven years ago, before we left on our family trip to Italy. I wanted some comfortable walking shoes, and they filled the bill admirably. They have trod the dust of the Roman ruins and stepped quietly through the marbled halls of the Vatican; they have strolled the grounds of Chichen Itza and walked boldly across the plaza facing Mount Rushmore. Most importantly, they have accompanied me on my morning walks in New Albany, over snow and ice, through rain and muck, in frigid climes and baking summer heat, for years and years and years.
Now, however, they are starting to fail. I’ve tried to ignore it, but the signs are there. The toes are frayed, the heels and soles are worn down, and occasionally I feel telltale moisture indicating that they have sprung a leak. Soon the shoes will need to be put in semi-retirement, perhaps to be worn only on dry, warm days, and then finally to be retired altogether. It will be a sad day.