I’m a walker. When I was young, that was the phrase we used for friends who walked home from school versus riding the bus. But now I mean simply that I take walks. Virtually daily, I get out for a walk at least once, sometimes twice. In the morning before work, or during my lunch hour, or on a weekend afternoon, or in the evenings before dark – I’m taking my daily stroll. I know there are many of you RW’s who are also out there stretching your legs. Some of you take it to the next level, doing lengthy hikes, climbing mountains, or running marathons. I will once in a while add in a brief jog until my knees remind me that is not a worthy option. Fine by me, I’ve never enjoyed running. But walking? You bet.
When the seasons get warmer, and the days get longer, I add in my other favorite outdoor activity, bicycling. I am a fair-weather biker, but I’ll walk during almost any weather – as long as it isn’t hazardous or truly unbearable. When I can’t get out for walks, I don’t feel good. I feel more tired, my back and knees get stiff from sitting, I have less patience, and I grow weary of stale air. I need the diversion of getting out, even if it is only for a short 20-minute loop.
If I walk near home, my faithful companion is my fur-kid, my amiable Lab. Often during lunch breaks, I’ll walk with a couple of friends. Other times, I’m solo. It really isn’t about the exercise as much as it is about head clearing and fresh air breathing. My pup is getting into his senior years, so our outings have become more of a meandering amble – certainly not a cardio workout by any means. With my friends I pick up the pace, but those walks are more about chatting and catching up. And when I’m out on my own, I move along and ponder. I do some of my best thinking when I’m out walking or biking. Besides, that’s what we women do. We think. ALL. THE. TIME.
Sometimes I will ruminate over issues or challenges, working things out one step at a time. Sometimes I’ll write in my head then come back and translate it into my laptop before I forget the words. Other times I’ll make up stories about those who live in the homes I pass, and identify them by the dogs who live there. I think that fluffy Samoyed’s mom works from home. That bouncy boxer is trying to herd his busy family. The twin pugs are waiting for their teenagers to come home. That cute retired couple likes to garden and pamper their cat.
The best walks, however, are when I’m not deep in thought on any one particular thing. When I can just let my mind drift, clearing my head of day to day stuff. I soak in my surroundings and hop randomly from thought to thought. I look at the views, watch for birds, thrill at blooming flowers… and invariably my gaze travels down and I have one recurring frustration: why is there litter?
Seriously, I’ve never understood why litter is a thing. What makes someone think “gosh, I’m going to throw my trash out into nature.” ? And what really gets me, is doesn’t it take more effort to roll down your car window and hurl garbage out of a moving vehicle than it does to simply toss it on your floor then throw it away when you reach your destination?
Maybe my befuddlement is because I grew up with the Don’t Pollute campaigns of the 70’s and 80’s. That crying Native American in the Keep America Beautiful ads is forever engraved in my memory banks. As a little girl, I felt guilty tossing an apple core into the woods. I remember my Dad picking up soda cans along the road. Besides the why, I ponder the what…because over time that seems to have changed. Sure, there are still gross lumps of fast food containers, but it seems the majority of the ugly trash items now are liquor bottles. Like crocuses popping up in the spring, empty Nip bottles gather in clusters in seemingly oddball areas.
There’s a plethora of them down the road from my office, between the road and a ball field. There’s another assortment of them along a farmer’s field at the end of my street. My first initial reaction used to be “darn partying kids.” But I wonder, is it really teenagers pulling over by a field, slurping down tiny bottles of booze then throwing them in a heap in a ‘yeah, we’re cool’ statement? Or is it a few alcoholics taking quick swigs behind the wheel (yikes) then hiding the evidence in plain view before they go home? And weirdly, the most popular varieties seem to be vodka and Fireball. Why? Oh, so many questions. So much disgust.
Luckily, there is still more natural beauty in my walking world than there are discarded booze bottles. And as I continue my journey, I’m reminded that we have a choice in life. We can get weighed down by the poor judgement of others, and dwell in the small ugly moments that can trip us up along the way, worrying about how to cope, OR we can look up, take deep breaths, appreciate the good in life, and decide how to continue to make it better.
And be open to learning new things… like my dog’s favorite lesson to follow your nose, even if it means crossing back and forth across the street a dozen times during one walk.