The Gift of the Walk

One of our many walks

While we walked to the corner donut shop this morning, I realized how many walks we take now. 

Before we shoved our belongings into the home on wheels, we had a large fenced yard. When we bought our home, we had several projects we deemed most important: first, tearing out the high pile red carpet and re-finishing the beautiful wood floors that lied beneath, and fencing as much of the back yard as we could so that Gordon (and later, Bernie) could roam freely. 

The carpet was pulled the day we closed on the house, and Jeremiah had refinished the wood floors within three days. It was the hottest days in September – and sweat continually dropped on to the floors. 

The fence? Well, that was a larger feat, but once we had it finished, the dogs spent hours outside during sunny days. When they were getting along, they’d chase each other, When they weren’t, they’d each dig large holes that we’d try to fill in. Gordon made 4 different beds in the garden I grew, so after the first summer I arranged each of these beds to be shaded but not filled with flowers or produce that I would miss when he dug them up. During the first year after we adopted Bernadette, she captured half a dozen birds, one of which we saw her catch as it was flying. I shit you not. 

While we took the dogs on walks once or twice a week – more during drier periods in Oregon – they got the majority of the exercise by running, digging, and stalking mice and squirrels.  Walks were just an added bonus. 

Now, walks are the only way that Bernadette gets any exercise. So, we take a lot of walks. 

We have seen a lot of houses, backs of industrial buildings, abandoned cars. Small streams, rivers, and lakes. Many parking lots including truck stops and rest stops, RV parks, and Walmarts. Overgrown paths and others that are well taken care of. We’ve walked through parks with signs that say, “No dogs allowed,’’ (monsters!) and we’ve picked up a lot of trash in various areas. We’ve taken strolls along the ocean, and through deserts. 

Sometimes -often- I go without Jeremiah, but with Bernie. I see turtles swimming, toads and frogs, countless deer, and have collected enough mosquito bites for a lifetime. (I bruise when I get mosquito bites. I do not like them, but they seem to like me.) 

I used to walk alone, completely, many years ago. Over the years, I’ve been introduced to walking companions: Gordon, Bernadette, Jeremiah. 

My favorite walks are still the ones where I am entirely alone. No dogs, no humans, and on the best days  – no cars or passersby. Some people say walking alone allows them to think. Not me. I don’t really think about anything at all. I just watch with no real intention of the walk other than placing one foot in front of the other. I find myself counting often. Into the thousands, for no reason. 

My second favorite walks are those with Jeremiah. We point things out to one another that we wouldn’t have seen otherwise. 

An evening in April

In Florida, close to sunset on a warm evening shortly before we swam with the manatees, we were walking down a paved sidewalk, woods and marsh on either side. It was April, and the sun was setting before we had made supper. We watched as a few deer crossed our path, and I sought the marsh for alligators, hoping we would spy one in the last remaining spots of sun in the day.  

Then, as we were nearing the campground again, we heard a conversation in the trees between two owls. The hoot and call of one owl was echoed by another, seemingly just a few trees away.  I pressed the red button on my phone’s camera to record the exchange. We could not see the owls, but listened to them sing as we searched the treetops. 

Soon, another couple bicycling on the path joined us. 

“Do you see something?” They asked, looking at my outstretched phone as they hopped off their bikes. 

“No,” Jeremiah replied, “but we hear owls. ”  

They stopped and stood with us. “We saw a manatee in the springs yesterday,” they mentioned. ”just swimming around.”  

As the owls sang back and forth to one another, I crouched down to peer through the boughs of the trees. 

“It’s right there!” I said. “I see it!” 

Hidden behind branches, sat one of the owls. 

“Good eye!” Jeremiah said.

Jeremiah and the other man spotted it relatively quickly as they leaned down and tilted their heads. 

“I can’t see it,” the woman said quietly to us. 

“Here, get lower,” The man responded. “Come here.” 

“Oh,”  She responded as she squatted down after a minute or two with the three of us pointing. “I see it! It’s so much closer than I expected!” 

Kneeling and crouching down, we watched the large bird of prey. It was big – easily the largest owl I had seen in the wild. It’s outline was projected from the setting sun, and it called to its cohort. We waited there, gravel in our knees and straining our necks for several minutes before Bernadette began to pull on her lead, insistent that our walk was not over. 

Before parting ways, the couple thanked us for sharing that moment. 

“That was a gift,” the man said, and I smiled and nodded as we walked away. 

Shortly after, the night sky arrived, and with it, one of our first glances at fireflies which to me is a gift as well, but I guess I can save that for another story. 

Notes: Apologies if any words are missing “g” “h” or apostrophes. Im avin some technical difficulties.

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