Paths, of course, can be real or metaphorical. My reconnoitering on my little Off the Beaten Path blog belongs in the latter category. But then you probably know that. Its meant to offer reflection, not guidance, and certainly not solutions. But I write to re-assure myself that no matter how wandering or insignificant my thought train may seem it does touch upon occasional gritty stuff, stuff of relative value that others may appreciate and take some encouragement from… that all that is grand and important and of lasting value is often cloaked in metaphor and neither readily understood nor easily absorbed by our rascally minds.One of life’s difficult lessons is that we become prone to looking but not seeing, listening but not hearing, holding but not touching, caring but not loving.
Wander with me for a few moments while I weave today’s long over-due path-detour. I’ve been trying to walk 30-40 minutes every day since returning from a quick visit to west Texas in the Concho River Valley area, where we were welcomed by Denise’s niece and her husband and were totally enchanted by their 4 y/o daughter and almost 1 y/o twin boys. Our first hands-on contact with the family in well over a year. I won’t go into grand-father-like raving about these kiddos and their outstanding parents, but it was a very happy twist in our daily path hacking that we will not soon forget. Even their parents invited us to dinner and shared stories with us as though we were close relatives who just happened to have been busy elsewhere for the last 7 or 8 years. We have fond memories of their kindness and are proud to be included in their family circle.
Needless to say, flying to Texas, sitting is mandatory, as in sitting for airport hours, in-plane hours, rental car and hotel waiting hours, etc. and back again, traveling hours on end, we were sort of butt-bound by the time we got home late in the evening, 4 full days later, and taking a walk the next morning was just a few degrees north of a chore, but a much-needed exercise.
So after 3 days of one mile or so walks in the a.m. (otherwise they often don’t happen), I decided today to not walk a quick pace but simply walk and observe my surroundings, as one should do daily and appreciate the beauty of the world that has been given to us.
The Sidewalk Path
The run-off or overflow pipe beside the sidewalk was dried up and without any water to speak of and the sometime resident baby gator was nowhere to be seen. Ten steps later I noticed a long piece of what I thought was an invading vine in a six-foot tall bush turned out to be only a piece of twine that fed back into the bush and disappeared. It wasn’t fishing line, and reminded me of a thin version of a pull cord that might be found on a lawn-mower or outboard motor. A few quick tugs didn’t start anything except the other side of the bush into bending back and forth. No noise, no excitement, the little boy in me said forget it, this ain’t worth my time.
Not far along I met an elderly lady who stopped and asked me if I had seen her “calico kitty” who had wandered off – not the first time. No, I said, but would keep an eye out, and we both continued our walking. Moments later I realized that I had no idea who the lady was or which building she lived in and if I did see her kitty what should I do with it. (Not being completely in the moment there, Dick.)
A brief check of the dock at the lake revealed no fish or heron or any bird activity at all. (Check off lake as being ok.) Up the boat ramp and back on the sidewalk I became a little lost in my thoughts until I nearly bumped into a family of Sand Hill Cranes, too busy feeding off grubs or ants or whatever to be alarmed by my presence. They were all about the same size and coloration so I knew they were 2 adults and 2 juveniles. Large birds. When they stand erect and scan the surroundings with necks extended, their beaks could do some major damage to a person’s face or head. Thankfully they could not care less about me even though I was within 3-4 feet of them. (Check. Family of 4, intact and happy. Pairs mate for life and often lose one or both of the young to predators before they reach full size. Good to see four together – good day for cranes).
Farther along, a few late migrating warblers chattering about in the trees, gators and mallards no longer lounging around in the water-front property (a particularly Florida real estate phrase for houses that border rain and aquifer collectors…they are retention ponds folks.) Still, an interesting place unless you went out and bought a lot of beach chairs and umbrella tables. A few more steps and a human with a phone to his ear dragged his dog along the other sideaof the street; we have no idea about who either of us were or if it mattered. A woman walked past me and appeared to be deaf as I gave a clear “good morning” in her direction and she marched right on by, with no ear-buds for an excuse. (Check bathroom stuff and expiration date on that antiperspirants. It could be my fault)
Fifty yards more, a young man with what looked like a floor buffing machine, spraying water on a driveway and swinging it back and forth just like a buffer (I have personal knowledge of the motion), clearing away the oil,grease,dirt etc.that besmirches our home parking places. (Floridians take great pride in their pristine cement driveways). I waved to him and he nodded back. I remembered him (rather his truck, his machine, and apparently his father, who I’d passed before on my walks. Their truck, with a trailer loaded with a water vat and I guess some chemicals and a compressor to drive the water/buffer gizmos, proclaimed a Power Wash business,(Floridians, in keeping with their pristine driveways also demand their vinyl siding not offend neighbor or visitor with dirt, grime, cobwebs or such, and be neat and clean all year round. As if torrential rain and hurricane force winds weren’t enough. The decorative license-plate displayed on the front seemed to say they were from Barbados… or maybe it was just their favorite soccer team.
Nearly back to where I started, the nice elderly lady was gone, so I did not have to tell her that her kitty was nowhere to be seen and probably eaten by an alligator, since they dearly love to snack on kitties and small dogs and she should remember to close her doors and windows in the future. (My wife told me later that she had walked past that building and had seen a cat sitting on the roof.) I thought maybe I would have to go back and tell the lady that she should add red-shoulder and broad-wing hawks to her list of suspects. Nah. Too much info and probably too late. Then again, elderly or young, folks are not always receptive to suggestions concerning the harshness of possible realities. I secretly hoped that Kitty was home safe and she and her caretaker were securely locked in their happy domicile.
So there it was. Just a walk around the neighborhood. Not a quick pace. Not trying to make X number of miles in X amount of time. Just trying to see what I’m already living in and sometimes missing. Goals are good and necessary part of living. But I believe that it is equally important to focus on and enjoy the steps to that goal. We can’t control the end result but we can attend to and enjoy the steps along the way.
“We make the road as we go”*, and the best paths come without GPS or compass. I’ll choose the non-beaten path whenever I can. It may be dull and boring; it may be a grand adventure. I’ll find satisfaction in the fact that it is my path and relish the outcome.
Thanks for walking with me.
- “…Caminante no hay camino …Se hace camino al andar…”
- Antonio Machado…“Proverbios y cantares” in Campos de CastRDHilla.