It was beautiful outside this morning, which made it a no-brainer to go for a long walk. The birds were singing their little hearts out, squirrels were frolicking, flowers bursting out all over in waves of color and fragrance. The breeze was still cool, swirling around the dew-drenched greenery of garden and thicket, but the air was lush and moist enough to suggest definite sultriness to come. The sweetest perfume of all was from the heavy banks of lilacs standing in the places where old houses used to be:
I walked along my regular running route, which takes me past Antioch College, through quiet neighborhoods with a wide mix of architectural styles, out into farmland, back in along the rails-to-trails bike path along the edge of a nature preserve, and up through the heart of downtown. It’s deeply familiar territory, but there’s always something new to see, particularly at walking pace. Like these proud papas defending their territory:
Passing through the “suburbs,” it looked as if another kind of avian skullduggery was afoot. The “You’ve Been Flocked” yard sign made me giggle for a good 100 yards.
Long (45-60 minutes or more) walks are a wonderful centering technique for me. They re-establish me in my body and environment, pulling me out of my own head where my thoughts too easily become self-referential and obsessive. It’s a great time to practice focused observation and attention to my surroundings, and also a fine opportunity for thinking things over without getting stalled or stuck in a rut. There’s a palpable harmony about traveling on foot at a comfortable pace; the long deep breaths and warm muscles create a physical comfort and relaxed alertness conducive to mellow thinking. There are unique satisfactions about walking a familiar route, too. It allows me to appreciate the slow, incremental changes—foliage, angles of shadow and sunlight, abandoned buildings aging, trees blossoming or fruiting—as well as the smaller, more specific alterations—home or garden improvements, birds and animals, passers-by, unusual cars or dogs or costumes. Being of a philosophic turn, I like to observe the inner conversation that accompanies the myriad of sights and sounds and smells. This conversation is like a waking dream, images and words and ideas flowing unfettered, sometimes in rational lines of premise to conclusion, sometimes in lilting, unbidden notion-sculptures of unexpected beauty. As I was in the midst of one of these reveries along the bike path this morning, I paused to admire this splendid Yellow Springs landmark, whose whimsical practicality (or possibly the other way around) captured exactly my interior state of mind.
A little further along, coming into downtown for the final stretch, it looked as if this little tree was blossoming beyond its wildest dreams.
What a splendid thought for someone to have and then to execute, adding new loveliness to an already lovely thing, gilding the proverbial lily to yield two delights instead of one. I scanned the early morning foot traffic of coffee-seekers and schoolchildren to see if I could see in any of them the germ of the spirit that had devised that pretty scheme.
The final few blocks of my route are through the central part of the village where every house is different from its neighbors and the styles range from curvy Art Deco stucco to low-country southern cottages wrapped in verandah. These are houses where I know the inhabitants and their children, remember which ones have endured death and which have welcomed new babies. This is where my home begins, the haven where I am known and accepted for myself alone.
The red cottage on the corner has been thoughtfully restored by a woman whose eye for design is matched by her extraordinary green thumb . She likes old-fashioned flowers and my favorites are blooming now, forget-me-nots.
Because, after all, isn’t that really the point?