I believe in walking before dawn; in getting out in the physical world every day, with as little modern intrusion as possible. In the hour before dawn, out of doors, I can’t be reached by phones or distracted by broadcast news or household demands. Dust bunnies and clutter are irrelevant and there is silence.
I’ve spent most of my adult life in Texas suburbs, so I can usually find a golf course to walk on before the light dawns and golfers show up to claim their turf. But even walking suburban streets, it is quiet at that hour. There are more interesting critters about, and fewer humans.
I’ve seen coyotes, foxes, deer, armadillos, raccoons, skunks, a golden hawk, and once, a great horned owl flew low and slow, at eye level, within ten feet of me. And, of course, I’ve witnessed many spectacular sunrises. Recently, I saw 13 shooting stars in about 45 minutes. One day as I walked close by a short post on a footbridge, something rustled next to my elbow. A huge buzzard was roosting on that post. He ruffled his feathers, and went back to sleep. I’ve even seen a bald eagle fly up into a tree clutching breakfast in his talons. He ate it, then dropped the remains in a lake as he flew away.
Being out in the world, before the machines and appliances begin their daily drone, helps me focus on what else is important to me.
Once, on vacation in Colorado, I went out for a walk in a Rocky Mountain Forrest Wilderness. I lost the way and didn’t find the trail back to civilization (my car) for three days. I was privy to the awakenings of the natural world for those three days. I learned that elk have whistling teeth, that skunk cabbage is not an effective blanket, that dandelion greens can be bitter out of season, and that not every bud that grows on a pine tree is a tasty pine nut. I learned that we don’t die of difficult circumstances. An uncomfortable night out, shivering is not fatal. The experience focused me marvelously on what is important to me. I kept Paul, my husband’s face centered in my mind’s eye.
I do my best thinking on these walks, often coming up with brilliant insights or witty phrases. When I step back into the house, into the demands of mundane life, these brilliant insights fly from my brain like bats from a cave in first light. Once I had the bright idea of carrying a tape recorder, to preserve these nuggets of wit and wisdom. After a few days of taping, though, I realized that I wasn’t generating anything worth remembering and was using the tape recorder to make lists of things I needed to do back in the mundane world. So, I went back to walking, unencumbered by technology; and contemplating my place in the food chain and distilling what else I believe.
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