I just finished up my eleventh walk in eleven week-days. This, to me, is a sort of success. And today I added a few minutes to my walk so that's good. My goal at this point is to walk four miles in an hour which is not a bad pace on dirt paths and on roads in this heat, and in this humidity and at my age and I'm close.
I am not an athlete and never will be. I am your regular grandmother who enjoys walking because it is simple. You put on your shoes, you go out the door, you walk at a good pace for some ways and then you come back. You take off your shoes and you drink a lot of water and there you are.
Walking outside and on different surfaces seems to me to be an excellent way to exercise. The brain has to work constantly to maintain balance on an uneven path and I love the way it communicates with the legs and the feet to keep me upright and avoiding obstacles even as I feel I am not paying much attention to the process. I would bet that as a whole body/mind exercise, this is far superior to walking on a treadmill which seems sterile and pointless to me and if I had to walk on a track, I suppose I would, but I would not enjoy it so much.
I see things, too. Like this.
I see tracks in the dirt roads of deer and coons and snakes and other critters I don't recognize. I see birds and butterflies and wild flowers and so many trees and spider webs, some of them yards across, some inches, and they are beautiful with the morning sun lighting them so that they shine like gold or silver, depending on the rays of the sun, and if there was rain in the night, they wear jewels of prismed rainbows.
Of course I also see trash which humans have dumped from single window-tossed offerings of paper cups to beer bottles to large piles of yard and house waste, dumped without any thought or concern for anyone else's property. I think the thing I hate about these piles of trash in the woods the most is that I simply have to admit that humans are not always the thoughtful beings I would wish we were. We can be pigs and often are.
The couple in the little trailer I walk by on the corner near here who turned that sow's ear into the nicest sow's ear imaginable have moved. I am glad for them- who would want to live in a ten-by-fifty-foot box on a small dirt lot? I have lived in one of those trailers myself and although there were things about it which were quite fine and cozy, it was not ideal.
But these people had planted calla lilies and tomatoes and made the yard tidy and always kept their trash cleaned up and even had just put in a tiny chicken coop. They had outdoor seating and a basketball hoop and pots of flowers. In short, they created as fine as living space as could be imagined in such a humble place. And I wish them well wherever it is they are moving to.
Now. If that damn trailer could only be condemned before someone else can move in. It is old, it has parts missing, and I can only imagine that there is much of the whiff of rot within it. Those things aren't built to last and this one most be at least thirty years old, quite possibly forty.
But, the rent is probably incredibly low and all that some people can afford and it is at least protection from the elements. Sort of. In a way.
To be honest, it is not really fit for human habitation and that's all there is to it and if the rent is more than five dollars a month, someone is getting ripped off.
Anyway, it is good for me to live in a place where I can walk in woods and in fields and past places which remind me of how lucky I am with my fine old house and air conditioning and room for a garden and chickens and flowers. I pass tumbled-down shacks and I pass double-wides and I pass tidy yards and I pass a nice little house built on spec a few years ago which stands empty, even its For Sale sign now gone, its mailbox leaning at a drunken angle. I pass the tiny old hidden cemetery where the long-dead live and I pass oak trees which were probably old when those people were living. I pass the abandoned store, the house where the Trashiest People In The World Live, and a church which has Bible Study on Tuesday nights. I pass the truck stop and the old, crumbling gas station across from it. I pass the old man who sits in his truck where Main Street hits Highway 158 who reads the newspaper and sometimes just sits in peace, not five hundred yards from his house. We do not speak but we nod and I wave and he may or may not wave back. I think it is sort of like when you sit on your porch which means that in an understood way, you are invisible to passers-by unless you invite notice by saying "hey" or waving as someone goes by. There is privacy, even if it is only pretend. I would never actually sit naked on my front porch but dammit, if I did, I would expect people not to comment.
Right now, during this mosquito infestation, to sit naked on my porch would be to invite death. Watering the porch plants last evening was an exercise in pure torture and I won't be doing that again without spraying myself first.
But to my mind, the man in the truck has extended his porch and that is all there is to it and I respect that.
He is one of the few people I see unless Bubba, the man with one leg, is out walking. We always stop for a moment and chat. I haven't seen the man we used to call the Sheik in a long time and I haven't seen Mango in forever and he used to stand in front of the post office in all sorts of weather. I do think I saw his brother today, though, walking down the road. I believe his brother is named after some sort of wine but I can't remember what kind. Chablis? That hardly sounds possible but then again, this is the rural south and I see and hear things all the time which hardly seem possible and yet, there they are.
Think of all the things I would miss if I exercised in a gym! The soaring hawks, the clouds building to a possible afternoon thunder storm, the waddling armadillos, the frantic rabbits, the moss-draped trees, the peaceful, shady spot where lie the bones of other humans who have lived here, who have walked these same paths, who now rest as I will too someday.
I would miss the blooming clitoria, the swelling beauty berries, the jewel-draped spider webs.
I would miss so much and I would never even know it.
And as I walk, as I notice, as I see, I am making my body stronger. I am walking off anger and impatience and worry. I am letting my brain take care of my feet and my feet are taking care of me.
And, it is all free except for the doing of it and I am so glad that for whatever reason, that switch in me has flipped and these walks have become, again, a very, very regular part of my life. I am the richer for them and I know it.