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Many years ago, the kids on my block said “Get your shoes on!” instead of the usual “Get your s__t together!” They meant the same thing but I never heard anyone else use our saying that way. Now I think it’s a good idea to get your shoes on and get walking.
Walking, as we all know, is good for you, a natural form of exercise that people already know how to do. It takes minimal equipment, space outdoors, and about a half an hour once you’re up to speed.
Take a walk in my neighborhood.
I live just off a walkable 1.5 mile loop where the summer people pump along with their dogs and significant others, or all alone, all hours of the day and evening. A couple of guys run like Rocky, punching the air as they go. One of them even has weights. Girls walk together talking out their problems, or alone with music players. Elders walk their Cocker Spaniels on leashes, letting them get whiffs of tantalizing forest and meadow smells.
So it’s now just about summer and I’ve restarted my walking practice too. I just put on loose but not-too-raggedy clothing, some sneakers, and head out the driveway. I might go left and chug up a grade by the barn, and see the deer if they’re out in the meadow. Then it’s through the Christmas tree farm till I end up by the highway and get a nice downhill slope to the lake. From there it’s an easy flat walk back to the house.
For a bigger challenge I warm up walking to the lake, thence to the highway, and go up a long grade to the the tree farm, then down through the meadow past the barn and home. Either way the walk takes about 30 minutes to do.
Unless the neighbors are out.
The deer get used to people being in the area and don’t run away as soon as I’d like. I’d rather they were nervous farther away from me. Come fall they need to be wary of our kind.
The Border Patrol guys park in various places along the way and sometimes want to talk to you. So I do, always. They provide 24-hour armed security for the ‘hood, so it’s the least I can do for my country.
Then there are the other human residents, who want to chat and sometimes have their beer or coffee supplies depleted. They’re nice people and they mean well, but there’s a problem with extended yacking. It draws bugs.
Still, it’s a nice way to take a small break. And if I feel dutiful I can always push it a little, do some interval training to make up for the visiting. Not that I usually do it. But I could.
A sensory treat.
The rest of the time I have the sounds. The dirt road from the house to the lake runs along a rocky brook. The sounds of the water tumbling over stones is so relaxing! Little goldfinches dart in and out of the road. Turkeys strut around sometimes. Various songbirds trill away in the trees that sofly sigh with the breeze funneling from the west.
I have the sights too. The hills on either side, the myriad shades of green of the trees, the gold and purple wildflowers of the meadow. In late spring, by the barn, there’s an old lilac hedge that still blooms and smells wonderful. And when I go by the woods, the balsams’ scent prevails.
Walking along the highway.
Then there’s our not-so-busy country two-lane highway. Some trucks go by, but really only logging trucks most of the time. A lot of pickups and SUVs pass me as I walk on the side of the road. There are also cars, some of them antiques out for the summer, and hordes of motorcycles touring. All the motorized traffic is good about giving me room when they can, often with friendly waves.
Then there are the bicycle tourists. These guys are dedicated. They never get off their bikes, they just gear down and power up the hill. They’re all so fit looking it’s scary. One of them broke down in our area years ago and needed a bike mechanic. My husband nicely drove him and the bike to the closest one, sixty miles away. He does a lot of paying it forward, but then, that’s pretty normal here.
The highway has its own pleasures, like seeing friends out, walking by the wetland with the cattails, and stirring up the golden retriever across the way. But mostly it’s the hardest work to get done on the whole trip and when I’m through, I’m happy.
Quiet, or comfortable conversation.
I don’t carry recordings or radio when I walk. If I’m alone I can remember tunes that will go with the pace I set, let go of them if I have a thought, and go back to them at will. It just seems easier that way. And if I have someone along to talk with, even nicer.
My husband has a shorter range than I do because of his back condition but we have some nice walks together. Sometimes we go along the stream on the dirt road, then turn back and go off-trail on the other end of our yard, into the woods. We can still follow the stream for quite a way.
By then we’re walking on very uneven terrain, stepping over trees that fell over the path covered in moss. We have to watch for poison ivy, but we can also look for wildflowers. In spring, we find bloodroot, trillium, wild Siberian iris by the stream, and some old apple and plum trees in among the choke cherry trees.
On our back path we often find animal tracks, mainly deer but sometimes moose as well. We’re careful to make noise enough to let our wild neighbors know we’re around, and we hardly ever see them during the day.
In late summer and fall we can gather blackberries way out back as part of a walk, or get choke cherries from trees nearer the house. One has to be careful of choke cherry country because of bears. I surprised one sleeping off a cherry binge one day. He looked at me, I looked at him, and we ran in opposite directions!
Walking the loop and the woods works till about October, when it gets wet and cold. Then we wait for snowshoe season. The town roads are muddy, the woods are soaky, and it’s just not good walking any more till the following May, when the ground dries and people come out again.
Where is your favorite place to walk?