WALKING MY CARES AWAY

October 10, 2003

FAVORITE WALK

I’ve spoken before of my love of walking. It’s my favorite form of exercise–simple, can be done fast or slow, morning or night, cold or hot. I sometimes resist actually putting on my shoes and *going*, you understand, because I am only human (and a really lazy human, if you want to know the truth), but I can’t think of a time I ever regretted doing it once I hauled myself out of the house and off into the wilderness. Or at least down the block.river2-2

Yesterday, my walking partner and I crossed signals and I ended up at the Nature Center by myself in the gentle light of an October morning. Once I realized what had happened, I considered whether to go on my own, or to go home and get my dog–whom I’d left behind because he’s still a puppy and gets a bit rowdy–or just to skip the whole thing.

The Nature Center in Pueblo is a long…”park” sounds too civilized…naturalized area that runs alongside the Arkansas River. It’s quiet, filled with wildlife, and I love walking by the water. It’s one of my favorite places in the city. Maybe the world.

This October morning, the air was cool enough I needed my sweater. I carried a bottle of water and as I set out, my fingers were cold for the first time this year. The sun was bright and long from the east, angling through the arms of cottonwoods hanging down over the path, some leaves bright yellow and backlit like a Kodak Moment, some leaves still rattling green on a faint breeze. The water was green today, too, and there was more flowing through the channel than there has been in recent days. I saw a heron, standing in a spot beneath a bluff, his brown body mirrored in the still water. I have noticed that it’s very hard to see them through the lens of a camera, a surprise because they are so large. But their feathers meld into the sandy banks and the backdrop of bluffs so perfectly that the camera lens blurs the differences. One needs a human eye to make the distinction. Only two sticks of legs show where he begins, and then emerges, plainly, like one of those magic pictures my children loved so much.

It’s a wonder, really.

There are sometimes horses in one of the fields. I like a chestnut with a long mane who seems arrogant and high-spirited, though I have no illusions about owning horses.

Today, there are cows instead. Black ones and black and white, and one pure white one with pinkish ears. She seemed sacred somehow, and royal. I like cow faces. They are such benign and peaceful beings. I feel quite protective of them.

And yet, I do eat them, don’t I?

I walked by myself today, no dog, no friend. I was alone on the path, too, for the most part, alone with my bundles of frustration and confused thoughts, which I carried with me for awhile, then decided to drop before I’d gone very far.

There was nothing much happening. That’s what I thought: “there is nothing much happening. I am in this unmoving place in my head and my life and the book. It feels still and opaque.”

But I couldn’t be too grumpy on the path with all that nature swirling around me. The sparkle of light on water and leaves, the swishing sound of river and breeze. The heron standing. The cows chewing.

We often see deer on this path, and dragonflies. Once, a horny toad sat on the path in the sunlight. There are thousands of ducks and birds and probably fish, though I never see them. I do see fishermen who seem content.

The other day, I spied what I thought was a dog, trotting along a fence that held some horses. He was cream-colored, with darker patches on his back and a fat, fluffy tail. A beautiful dog, I though, and quite chipper.

Something about him made me look again. His ears, maybe. His tail, with the black spot at the end. I said to my friend, “Is that a coyote?” She glanced at him, and said, “Yep.” I grabbed her arm. “Let’s just watch him for awhile!”

So there we stood, as we often do, watching a deer who thinks he’s hidden, or a warren of chipmunks sending the alert along the bluff. Coyote danced along the fence, eyeing the horses but not too seriously–though the horses were not convinced. They circled each other nervously, as if having a pow wow, then one of them broke away and charged up to the fence. Coyote trotted on, grinning.

I’ve been aching to see a coyote. I hear them all the time–singing and celebrating at night or after a rain, but I never see them. Never. To see one so bold in the morning, in plain sight was a fantastic gift.

And it was the morning I’d quit smoking. As if the universe saw fit to give me a little encouragement.

This morning, I didn’t see Coyote again. I stopped at the footbridge over the Arkansas and paused, as I do, to say hello to April, my beloved dog, whose ashes I scattered from here. (Sue and I both greet her–going and coming: “Morning, April,” one of us will say on the way over, and then, “Bye, April,” as we return.) I turned around and headed back home.

As I neared the end of the walk, I heard a blue jay–another of my favorite creatures. Like coyotes, they’re bold, sometimes savage, adaptable survivors. I look to them for special greetings. This one was noisy, squalling his presence to the world. It felt like a greeting and I laughed and said, “Good morning!”

He jumped down out of his tree, showing himself in all his finery. I thanked him and walked on.

Sometimes it seems like nothing is happening and there are all kinds of things going on. At the very least, a walk in the morning along the river makes it seem less dire.

Till next time,

Barbara

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