Now shall I walk or shall I ride?
‘Ride,’ Pleasure said;
‘Walk,’ Joy replied.
― W.H. Davies
In one of his many essays Henry David Thoreau wrote that he believed an early morning walk is a blessing for the whole day. Robert Frost, another New Englander from a later era, agreed. In ‘The Pasture’, the short poem he requested be placed first in any collection of his works, he invites readers to join him. ‘I sha’n’t be gone long,’ he says. ‘You come too’.
Like those two did, I start nearly every day with a walk, though more slowly of late.
You come too.
We first have to make our way alongside a busy street filled with the noisy traffic of people obviously late for work before we can turn away from all that commotion and commence a more pleasant journey on a sidewalk beside a narrow waterway. My wife Karen says it’s correctly called a watershed conduit, but I think that’s much too utilitarian. I call it a brook. Thoreau and Frost likely strolled beside babbling brooks, and this one actually does babble a bit in places after heavy rains.
This morning a couple of turtles have settled comfortably on the shore to watch the day waking up and the only babbling going on is the quacking of several ducks floating around. A big spoonbill swoops down over the water and glides to an almost splashless landing. The local family of nutria usually here must be sleeping in, deep in the think grasses in the shallows. The whole eastern sky is full of stings of pinkish cirrus clouds spread out over an impressive sunrise, and every few minutes a sleek jetliner catches the light just right on its silver belly as it makes its slow descent to Hobby Airport not too many miles away.
Most of the folks we’re encountering are regulars, friendly fellow travelers. This nice lady and her little leashed dog stop just long enough to tell us it might rain later (the dog concurs, with a soft bark). Bicyclers and joggers sweep quickly by and don’t pay any attention to us.
Only one walker is ever unfriendly. He meets me head on most mornings on my way home, and he has a dog that is not on a leash. Which is against the city rules. The dog is nice enough, not barking or seeming inclined to misbehave. But his master has never so much as nodded when I’d greet him. I know he can hear me, because some days he’s yakking on his cell phone. I was persistent for a while, and kept up the effort. But I finally gave up. He’s a nuisance, but not enough of one to dent my love of walking. Not on a treadmill, you understand, but actually going someplace. Even though it’s the same place every day.
When Karen and I lived in Lake Jackson I must have, over the course of many years, circumnavigated our Flagridge neighborhood on its ring road enough times that if all those miles had been stretched out I would have hiked up to Canada. I walked in the dark many mornings then, since I had to get ready to go teach school every weekday, and I’d listen every autumn for a distant honk or two, which would then be followed by a whole chorus of Canadian geese singing their ancient traveling song. Weekends made for fine walking also, since there were often garage sales going on. I made sure to always have a few dollars in my pocket and came home more than a few times with books and once or twice with knickknacks that Karen quietly made disappear. There won’t be any garage sales today, since all the houses are on the other side of tall wooden backyard fences.
We’ve arrived at my pivot point, so let’s turn around and head back.
Here’s my favorite part. These kids on bikes and on foot are headed for elementary school. It takes just a few mornings every year to get them to trust me enough to smile and say hello, and I like telling them to have a good day. One little girl, maybe a first grader, is holding her mother’s hand and always says ‘I will!’
Here comes the unfriendly man with the friendly unleashed dog. In a perfect world I would relent and wish him well and he would actually beam and say thank you.
So, what the heck. I smile and say ‘Good Morning!’ as cheerfully as I can.
To the dog. Not the man.
I’m not perfect.
(Originally published in Brazos Living magazine)
4 thoughts on “Walking”
Awesome stuff here, my dear friend. Thanks for sharing.Mary
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I must have a guardian angel in touch with you to send me messages when I need them. I needed this one today. Thanks, Ron, for inspiring me to take a walk today. All my best,
Love to read anything and everything you write. We have moved to McKinney to be closer to family. Sheila Kanski (Scott Kanski’s grandma)
Ron, Thanks for putting me on your email list. Always inspired by your writing. Poetry through prose! Miss our lunches. God bless.
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