Over the years I have taken part in many forms of exercise with the purpose of keeping this body going as long as time permits. I have come full circle from that moment before memory when I took my first steps. I now spend time each day going for a walk.
Back in the days of my prime I hit the road every morning and strode along a daily distance of four or so miles. Before that I did a little amateur jogging. It was exhilarating and energizing, and I loved it.
I have driven around the countryside noting mileage distances from my home in order to feel the satisfaction of having completed a particular number of miles, or half miles, depending on my goal of the day. It’s a mile to the second bridge down on Grassy Brook Road.
I am a faithful walker who has withstood swarms of black flies, torrential downpours, a fox that snapped and scared the life out of me, and the occasional blowing snow. There is a particular fly that shows up every August and buzzes in circles around my head as I walk. Passing motorists, more than likely, barely notice my flailing with branches as if in some religious penitential rite. But I’m as determined as that fly _ I know it’s the same one each year _ and the walk gets accomplished.
A few years ago I realized the walks had become increasingly uncomfortable to my knees and took time off to get a matched set of new ones. I was back on the road within a couple of months.
I love to walk.
Walking in Vermont is a special joy because of the dramatic changes one can observe on an almost daily basis. The brooks gurgle, the frogs peep and then croak, the leaves turn and return. I’m dumbfounded by people who walk wearing headphones. First of all it’s dangerous: you might not hear a car coming. Secondly, why shut out the most beautiful sounds on earth? There are whole symphonies going on all the time. What could be better than that?
Although I have no favorite time of year for walking, there is a definite least-favorite time. And the time would be now.
A few weeks ago I decided to combat approaching cabin fever by gulping the clean fresh air while walking. Not a good idea at 6 degrees. I should have listened to my lungs frosting over and pleading with me to go home as quickly as possible.
But after a short bout of ill health I am again taking my daily walks but with more carefully chosen winter gear. After donning my knee-length down jacket, boots, knee socks, mittens (warmer than any gloves), and a hat that ties under my chin and makes me look like a dork, I wrap the package in a scarf that goes over everything including my face, leaving slits barely large enough to see where I am going. It makes me remember bundling my own children up thus. I would carry those slippery shiny bundles out to the back yard, prop them up, and order them to play.
My walks have a serious mission. I check the progress of the new house going up just down the road. I eye the recycling containers to see if there is room for a deposit. I watch for deer tracks, and examine those prints I can’t identify. I wave to anybody in a pickup truck because it might be someone I know from the building trade and I want to stay in their good graces. I listen for the sound of a spring bird that might herald the end of you-know-what.
I do love to walk, and I will love it so much more a few weeks from now.