I just returned home from an hour-long walk with my newly-retired husband, Eric. It’s a beautiful winter day–cold but sunshiney with little dark-eyed juncos hopping about beneath the bare-branched bushes and brambles.
Yes, I said newly-retired. My husband and I are navigating this new course hand-in-hand as well as alone. I’m taking on more regular writing work to sustain us in this new venture while he enjoys the freedom to follow his own creative pursuits while doing a bit more laundry, vacuuming, and grocery shopping.
We’re taking walks, watching movies, and spending a lot more time in conversation. He’s there when I wake up in the morning which is kinda nice and kinda weird. It’s a lesson in never-ending, always-changing swirl of the world. Everything changes and everything stays the same–who said that?
(I actually looked it up and the saying goes–the more things change, the more they stay the same, and it’s attributed to a French dude by the name of Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr writing in 1849)
Anyway, all of this to say I’ve been so busy negotiating this retirement deal that I’ve already broken my promise to write everyfreakingweek here at the 49th Year. There is; however, something to say for failing early. It’s liberating. I can see that the sky didn’t fall, the earth didn’t open up a big sink-hole and swallow me, the roof didn’t cave. I’m still here, dammit, and I can write a blog post this week EVEN IF I didn’t write one last week.
So there, committee!
I’ve been walking daily, thousands of steps–thanks Fitbit–for years. My writing life could take a tip from my walking life, so today I’m answering this question.
ASS–I walk for my ass–my biggest (and maybe most hardworking) body part. I walk to use it and I walk to reduce it.
BE–There is no better way to simply be, than to take a walk in your world.
CATS–I like these crazy creatures, and love to watch a stray cat skulk across a lawn or dart under a bush.
DARK-EYED JUNCOS–These little gray sparrows show up in Olney every winter and hop about until spring.
EMPATHY–Walk every day, and you will deepen your capacity to experience the vast wonder and mystery of the natural world.
FLICKERS–this list is bird-heavy, but if you ever scare one of these largish woodpeckers from the ground, you’ll gasp at the beautiful patterns on her wings.
GREEN/BLUE MOMENTS–My favorite author, the late Amy Krouse Rosenthal delightfully dubbed those moments when you look up at the blue sky through green leaves, green/blue moments. If it’s gray today, you can look through a gallery of these moments at textbookamykr.com.
HOUSES AT NIGHT–There is something intriguing and comforting about warm light shining through the window of a house on a dark night–if you see people moving about, all the better.
ICE CREAM–Stop in at your local ice cream parlor for a sweet treat on a hot day, and lick the ice cream off your fingers all the way home.
JOURNEY–If nothing else, walking illuminates the well-trod truth that the journey is more important than the destination.
KILLDEER–Memorize this bird with its black-banded neck running across a newly shorn cornfield.
LOVE–the green spring grass, the white streaky skies, the puddles and pine needles and Cardinals against the sticking snow, one leaf turning and falling and twisting in a slight breeze, the tap and slap of feet against wet concrete, the slurp and gurgle of an overflowing creek.
MISCHIEF–Keep your eyes on the squirrels.
NUMBING, NOTICING, and OBLIGATION–Walking aids in our obligation to notice the natural world. We only come alive when we begin to truly notice.
PLACE–I’ve been walking around the same block since I was 14 years old. What was it old Jean-Baptiste Karr said–the more things change, the more they stay the same.
QUIET–Except for the birds.
RHYTHM–Breathe, Step, Pause, Notice, Repeat.
SYCAMORE TREES–White branches against a blue or gray sky.
TREE TRUNKS–at eye level, gnarled or smooth or flaking away like paper, white, dark brown, covered in moss or lichen, cracked and oozing, struck by lightening, glistening in rain and bending in wind.
UNDER–rocks, branches, piles of leaves, clear-as-a-window ice, mown grass, wind-blown cattails.
VINES–twining around and dancing together to the very tops of trees.
WIND–breath for the trees’ songs.
X–look up, you’ll see one.
YELLOW–black-eyed susans and wisteria and dandelions and feverfew. Tickseed and goldenrod and Gingko leaves like gold coins in the fall. Daisies and moonbeam coreopsis and fennel and zoysiagrass and sunshine flickering through heavy clouds.
ZIGGING, ZAGGING, ZIPPING, ZITHERING–hummingbirds.