Saturday, May 7, 2011

Far From the Maddening Crowd

I love going to races. I love the nervous tension at the start line. I love watching people's faces as they think about what they are about to attempt. I love the sound of pounding feet when we all take off together. And yet, today I didn't manage to get up in time for a race. Too many weeks on Benadryl, too many pre-dawn wake up calls and nearly 60 miles of bike commuting conspired against me and my half-marathon.

So instead I took the dog for a walk. 8:30 a.m. is too late for my start time, but still too early for my fellow denizens of the Hard Core Suburbs, so we had the woods all to ourselves. As Molly gets older our walks are less active and more meditative. We move at a pace where she can sniff every leaf and blade of grass. And her speed allows me to take in my surroundings, really take them in.

I noticed that my feet made different sounds on different sized gravel; on the larger old stones my footsteps crunched, while on the newer fine gravel my shoes made a soft shushing sound. I counted five different types of birdsong: a clear soprano cheeping, an alto repeating a chorus of three clear notes followed by an extravagant trill, and a bold tenor doing a jazzy improvisation. A frog was singing and I felt lonely for him until finally another frog answered his cries.

The giant tree that fell across the creek in the winter storms continues to disintegrate, but on some branches tiny shoots are appearing; someday a descendant will once again soar 30 or 40 feet into the air. Tiny purple and white flowers are appearing on the forest floor, even though the rapidly greening canopy must give them precious little sun.

Our resident mallard was paddling along in the water beside the path. His mate has been a no-show lately, making me think she must be watching some ducklings somewhere. It was too late in the morning for our owls to be out--I usually hear them making their last calls of the night when I wake up just before dawn--so in the underbrush the squirrels and baby rabbits could rest easy for a while.

I remembered that sometimes the hustle and bustle and stress of a race can feel a little bit too much like the rest of my days. Sometimes it's better to live like Molly: sleep in, take a long slow walk, and prepare for a day filled with sitting in the sunshine and long naps.

I made a video of birdsong and pictures from our woods for you if you feel like you, too, need a couple of minutes of bliss. Happy Saturday from way out here in the 'burbs.

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