A Southern Walk


The air is so thick and heavy, I feel like I could wring it out with my hands or drape it around me like some heavy woolen shawl. Another Alabama summer is here, hot and humid as they come. I walked underneath the canopy of Magnolias and Mimosas as the birds sang, grateful for a brief respite from the baking sun- and it wasn’t even 10am yet. I grew up in Florida and I know heat, but there is something different about the heat of an Alabama summer. It can sap the energy right out of you if you let it, but conquer it and it tempers you, making you tough enough to get through most anything. That and a good tall glass of iced tea. 

Walking is the only exercise I have been able to do since my hysterectomy surgery almost seven weeks ago, and it was strongly encouraged by my doctor. I have always loved walking in my neighborhood, but until my doctor gives me the all-clear (hopefully at our appointment tomorrow), I have to walk without my dogs, and I miss their company so much. Walking by myself has been a very different experience, as I’ve been able to think through things without the usual welcome distractions of watching their antics, cleaning up after them- and making sure that Coops doesn’t find something disgusting to eat before I am able to spot it and prevent a calamity. She’s part Lab…what can I say?

I’ve gradually increased the distance of my daily walks as my strength and stamina have returned, but I have kept my usual route that I’ve walked for fifteen years now. In my sometimes…okay, often wacky neighborhood, I like knowing where the difficult dogs are, where the interesting characters are likely to be, and I also just enjoy looking at the beautiful old houses that I pass that are in all manner of conditions, from sadly decrepit to pristinely renovated. I’m a sucker for old houses- they are all beautiful to me because I see their potential, no matter what state they are presently in.

I know every single crack and broken place in the sidewalks, I know where to cross over to miss aggressive dogs in fenced in yards, or where to avoid walking after it’s been raining so that I don’t slip on the Alabama red clay that has collected on parts of my route. I like the inevitability, the dependability of my walk, that when MyFitnessPal gives me a half-mile marker prompt, I know where I will be approximately. All of this to say that the predictability allows me to go inward and really get some sorting through of things done in a way that I am not usually able to do. I’m often so deep in thought that I don’t even hear what the prompt says- only that she said something. The introvert in me loves to be inside my head for long periods of time. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not, but it’s just my reality.

I’ve had lots to think about this summer on my solo walks. They began as pitifully slow and brief outings just in front of my house in the days following my surgery, and now I am back to my usual forty-five minutes to an hour. I feel so much stronger in so many ways than I did seven weeks ago. At first my thoughts were of survival- that I refused to feel weak, that I would walk and walk until I felt the energy coursing through me again. Soon after, I thought about others things…worrying about Dan working too hard in this last summer before he retires- and how life will change for us once he closes the door to the theater for good on August 31st. I thought about my own work and went over and over my propfessional goals for the coming year.

I have also thought a great deal about friendship, love, and loss, and the way they have weaved their golden threads throughout my life. I lost a dear pet not long ago, our cat, Kasey- my soul cat. I lost a friend who was like a brother last month, and I have tried to be a good friend to the partner he left behind- also like a brother to me. That experience has caused me to think a lot about Dan and our own plans that need to be made if the worst were to happen. Not in any morose way, but just the reality and  practicality of it all. I guess I have thought more about my own mortality since John’s passing, and all that I want to accomplish before I die- if I have any say about it, that is- and the places I hope to see and experience with Dan.

My health and my goals for aging well have been another popular topic on the summer ‘thought parade’. The surgery was actually a really good wake-up call for me in some areas of my life. I’ve been eating better and dropping some weight, adding weight lifting to my fitness routine. I am anxious to get the go-ahead from my doctor to return to yoga and kickboxing soon. A week from tomorrow I have been called back to have a mammogram rechecked. I’m not freaking out (in all honesty, I had to put it out of my mind while I dealt with the reality of the hysterectomy), as I know that it is quite common for this to happen- and that if it had been a huge concern, they would have gotten me in sooner (it had originally been scheduled on the date of my surgery). However, I’m ready to get it over with and move forward with exercising and eating well, doing whatever I can to be a strong and healthy old lady when the time comes. I want to be able to truly live my life, to be physically able to take care of myself and fully enjoy whatever years I have ahead of me.

I’ve also thought a lot about all I have to be grateful for- there is so much.  Dan, our home and animals, a career that still energizes and inspires me, dear friends who challenge me to be a better human and are always there for me. I think a lot about what I can do- no matter how small- to leave my little corner of the world a better place than when I found it.  

So many thoughts…so little time. Summer has just begun and I have many miles left to walk. Hopefully I’ll figure some of these things out in the coming weeks. Glad I got those new walking shoes. I’ll get back to you…

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