My first goal was to walk about a mile as often as I could, beginning with an every-other-day routine. As I ventured out, I came in contact with other community residents who walked, ran or exercised their dogs. The dog walkers were the easiest to get to know – just comment on their walking companion and the door is opened! My biggest surprise was that some/many people would pass me by without even an acknowledgement. I’m not sure how I grew up this way, but I wouldn’t think of passing someone on the street without eye contact, a smile, a nod or something. Of course, that’s different if you’re on a city street with lots of passers-by, but in your own community don’t you think you could manage a nod??? Anyway, I took it upon myself to loosen up the hood! I spoke to everyone I passed and waved at passing cars – not really a wave, more a “throw up my hand”, as we say in the South. No good deed goes unpunished! As the years have passed, my one hour walk can now take 15 to 20+ minutes longer, depending upon whom I may run into. Neighbors in cars, many of whom I don’t know by name, will now wave or toot their horns; and, if I miss a day or two, people want to know where I’ve been and if things are okay. It really has taken on a life of its own.
As time has passed, I’ve expanded my range and routes. My average is about 3.5 mile a day (averaging 80+ miles a month) and my best monthly record is having only missed three days out of the month. I’ve gone from going around in a short circle to having several longer routes.
- When I take a right turn out of my driveway, I go around the circle (which was my first, short route) and out the back gate. At the end of that road, I can turn around and come back or keep going to the Kroger shopping center, walking around the perimeter.
o On this route I’ve discovered where my neighbor feeds the feral cats that live behind the shopping center – and where I’ve seen the raccoon steal food! Now I know why they’re masked – they’re bandits!
o I’ve also gotten to know Truffles the cat, who resides beside Truffles restaurant and is fed by the restaurant and the yogurt shop. Not a dumb kitty! She’s a beautiful girl and the lady at the yogurt shop would like to take her home, but Ms. Truffles likes the situation as it is.
o I’ve also gotten to know one of the ladies at the independent living facility who also likes to walk down our shaded back road.
Sometimes I just do this as my walk. Other times I go to the bank, pick up something at Kroger……or stop and have yogurt with Ms. Truffles.
- When I take a left turn out of my driveway, I walk to the end of the street (about a mile) and then come back and walk to the front gate and then back home again.
- It’s on this route that I’ve met a neighbor from North Carolina who has also dealt with an aging mother and is sympathetic to my situation.
- Or, I walk up toward the front gate, turn left and go into an adjoining neighborhood. I call this my “Where the Wild Things Are” walk, with the wild things being turkeys (and the millipedes). Even growing up in the country, I never realized how pretty turkeys are. I’d only seen them from a distance, where they appeared like large buzzards, or bald and buttery on the table. Up close, their plumage is beautiful and it’s great to see the Toms puff up and display it all. I can see why Ben Franklin thought they might be a better symbol for America than the Bald Eagle.
- And sometimes, if I have a purpose, I venture out of the neighborhood entirely. If there is something (small) to pick up, I may walk to Target, Dollar Tree, Staples, etc. I now have the range and distance to go to the library or the Post Office, and it’s satisfying to have a purpose……though my neighbors probably think I’m nuts!
Walking really is a relaxing and energizing activity and I enjoy the solitude of it. It’s also amazing how much one notices on foot that would be missing if passing in a car.…..flora and fauna of every description: birds, squirrels, turtles, alligators, raccoons, feral cats, and so on. The interesting thing is that I began to see patterns, like the gray squirrels are prevalent, but there is one area that belongs to the fox squirrels. There is even an area that has an abundance of millipedes! And I love seeing the worn archways through the thickets, some small for racoons, possums and feral cats, and others large enough for deer. My favorite sightings are of raccoons (once coming straight down the side of a huge pine tree and into the nearby thicket, and another time stealing cat food) and once an otter! There is always something of interest.
I’m not really surprised by these revelations. Many years ago in San Diego I participated in a group called Walkabouts. Like most groups I “join”, it was loosely organized and you could participate when you wanted to, without having to “commit” to a rigid routine. Members would organize walks, usually with themes – I remember one being through a cemetery where several famous people (authors) were buried, another up Black’s Beach (nudist) to a restaurant in Carlsbad for lunch and then back again. Others had architectural themes and some were just in beautiful areas for the sheer pleasure of the scenery. I remember the surprise of “seeing” so much and am happy to be able to discover it again. It does add to my appreciation of all that is available to us if we just stop and take notice.