Walkabouts

Once the rains stopped two weeks ago, I decided to reinstitute my walking regimen, remembering all the solemn vows I uttered (albeit silently, so, really, who would know?) during the record number and endless duration of snowstorms here last winter.  Now that the calendar has flipped to June, it’s busting out all over at Flat Rock Creek and the walking trails beckon. 

On one walk the other night, I felt like Snow White in the Disney cartoon—animals were dancing around me.  Not because I extended to them any real measure of interest or because I bore any resemblance whatsoever to Snow White (my dress looks more like Belle’s).  No, they just like the established habitat of this area. 

Actually, I even got into a race with a purple grackle.  It was ridiculous.  This bird kept trying to get my attention as as I walked, jumping ahead of me from post to post along a long stretch of a wooden privacy fence until I finally turned to it and flat out asked, “Do you just want to race?”   That seemed to be the case, so I opted to speed-walk rather than sprint since I was already dehydrated by the ferocious humidity and still only halfway through my route. 

(Later that evening, I trudged to Mary South’s house where she plied me with gallons of ice water until I was sufficiently revived to make my way home in the dark under her watchful eye, lest the bats carry me away.  For more info on bats, see Running With the Bats.)

I’m not sure who won—it was that close, but the bird threw in the towel when I got beyond the last post.  I guess it wasn’t up to the challenge of actually flying against me rather than smugly leapfrogging fenceposts.  Disney should do more with its films on the aggression of birds against humans.  Oh wait, Hitchcock covered that.

I was soon distracted by a cardinal swooping down in front of me.  The area appears to have become a cardinal sanctuary this year as scores of them have made their homes in trees all over Flat Rock Creek, some in the redbud behind our back fence.  I’d also like to point out that all tree branches are sagging from the sheer volume of robin’s nests embedded in their boughs, many of which are embellished with mulch and twigs filched from my garden. Bluejays are way outnumbered but are still prevalent as are morning doves whose daily cooing marks my early morning garden inspections. 

Per usual, birds of unknown origin have made a nest in one of the decorative birdhouses on our deck.  We’ve heard an owl over the course of the past two weeks, probably coming from a tree on the creek’s edge.  And, as I walked this night, geese flew overhead.

Another night this week two rather huge crows were standing for quite a while on the sidewalk near the footbridge where I stopped to watch a mama duck shepherd her five babies through a pass of large rocks.  The crows were not budging and since I wasn’t sure about the bird-human protocol here, I politely asked, “Do I move or do you move?”  With that, they were airborne into the pine tree a few feet away, waiting for me to pass before they got back to business.

Yesterday, right as I left the house, I heard quite a bit of cawing, which is hardly unusual given the  number of crows I hear daily, but I looked for the source of the sound and spotted a crow in flight, toting a small animal and headed for a giant pine at the back of my neighbor’s yard.  I’m going to guess the small animal was a bunny.

Frankly, I’m not surprised since the rabbits are not even bothering to run away; they plop on lawns and chomp away, nonplussed by passersby.  As long as they are content to serve as mammalian lawnmowers and don’t go rogue by chowing down on my flowers, I am at peace with this arrangement.  Their issues with crows are another matter entirely.

My husband opened the front door last night around nine only to find a raccoon trooping right across the front porch like he belonged there until my husband admonished him with a stern, “What do you think you are doing here?”  Stunned by this query and with no excuse handy, the raccoon skedaddled to our next door neighbor’s yard.

On the flora front, our giant black walnut tree is already releasing small walnuts which sound like bowling balls crashing into our roof when they fall.  How can it already be time to don hardhats in the backyard and here the fireflies have only just arrived?   When they were much younger and not yet onto us, my kids and their friends were paid to remove walnuts from the deck and yard to prevent the squirrels from taunting our dogs. There is apparently no sum of money large enough to entice them to do this now, so I’m thinking of making an offer to the little boys across the street.   

Squirrels, the one animal whose existence I’ve not yet found a good explanation for, make it their practice to use the deck railing right outside the backdoor as a walnut trough.  The deck railing wraps around half of the house, so their decision to sit in the optimum spot by which to permit our hunting dog an unobstructed view of them relishing every morsel and spitting out the shells clearly reflects malice aforethought. 

I’ve also walked several mornings this week to Coffee Bay, a local coffee shop owned by a lovely Scottish woman named Mary and her husband. (Which begs the question: who isn’t named Mary in my blog?)   Lots of folks originally hailing from other countries (Ireland, Scotland, England, South Africa)  hang out there.

On my way, I’ve walked past Flat Rock Creek Pool which is now open for summer fun and enjoying brisk business with the consistent sunshine and steamy weather.  I see a young swim team, Tiger Sharks, practicing when I depart and swim lessons in progress when I return.  I watched one enterprising young mother of a swimmer unload a bike with training wheels for her preschooler with one hand as she held her dog on a leash with the other, ready to take dog and child on a trek down the walking path while she waited for swim lessons to finish.

All week, I saw all kinds of people walking and biking to the pool.  Yesterday, one dad pulled a red wagon full of small children while the mom managed the towels and pool toys.  Let it be noted: There is no lack of transportation to this neighborhood pool.

A chipmunk scampered past me up the steps when I returned home, disappearing into the tall stalks of yet-to-bloom coneflowers in the prairie wildflower garden at the front of the house.  Today, the first coneflower has bloomed, one black-eyed Susan is out so far, and the daisies are poised to open sunny side up at any moment.

And speaking of sunshine, one walk earlier this week was far more purposeful than these I’ve described: I participated in the 23rd annual Amy Thompson Run for Brain Injury on Memorial Day, a charity event supporting the Brain Injury Association and in honor of my dear friend Kate’s younger sister who valiantly lived with a brain injury before her untimely death at age 26.  Her injury was the result of gunshot wounds during an attempted robbery in 1986. (You’ll know Kate as one of the friends who when we were in high school needlepointed a pillow for my birthday in Needlepoint and Sorting Out the Sixties; her charming birthday gift to me this year was a photograph of the two of us seated side by side, heads together, at her first grade birthday party.) 

The run (I walk) was started by her friends in 1988 and quickly mushroomed into one of the premier runs this city hosts, drawing thousands of people of all ages every Memorial Day morning. It begins at the pond where my dad took us ice skating as kids (Not Yet Winter Weary) and wends through a beautiful neighborhood where Amy’s family lives.

A festive atmosphere prevails and Amy’s dad and 10 siblings and their families cheer on the participants  and greet them at the finish line.  Rain in any given year is always staved off during the run.  This year thunderstorms were a 100% prediction for the morning of the run, and I rolled my eyes when my mother commented the night before, “Jeanne (Amy’s mother) and Amy never let it rain on the day of the run.”  I chalked this up to her own brand of Irish fortunetelling. 

So you can imagine my surprise Monday morning when I watched the 6:30 AM news, and the weather forecaster described that the expected storm had literally split in half right at the western edge of the city with one half going due north of the city and the other half going due south, and all he could say was, “Folks, in all my years of forecasting I have never seen anything like this.  I have absolutely no explanation for what happened here.  There is none.”  I smiled at the TV and said, “Oh, yes there is.”

I’m proud to have participated every year with another dear friend, Betty, though there are two memorable exceptions:  the years I gave birth to my children (one was born 10 minutes before the run started and the other two days after the run).  Betty, a highly skilled labor and delivery nurse, assisted with both deliveries, so I kept her out of the event twice. 

She got even though.  She power-walks 5 miles every day, and for the past 18 years or so has left me in her dust.  My kids outpaced her this year, however, providing further evidence that what goes around comes around—if you live long enough to see it.  I had the good fortune to walk a bit more leisurely this year with another friend, Karen, a veteran of many charity runs and Betty’s college roommate.

Finally, a young blogger (Suburban Matron) whose well-written posts about her life and family I enjoy, wrote a humourous account of her 9-year-old daughter’s participation in a run in her community in the South.  http://www.suburbanmatron.com/2010/05/lacking-in-killer-instinct.html

Hers would be one of the best examples of Frost’s “way leading on to way.”  Even when the path appears obvious or you make a choice to take one path over another, you just never know where you might end up. 

So where in the world are your walks taking you this summer—through your hood or for a cause?  It’s only been a week and mine have led me to flora, fauna, friends, and neighbors…so far.  I’m headed out again after I hit the button to publish this post.

WEEKEND ROUNDUP:

-ate rocky road and coffee ice cream in a waffle cone

-planted Little Henry sweetspires and Lariope in the backyard in sweltering heat to mask a bare corner

-stained 1 and 1/2 Adirondack chairs for the deck

-put a large pot with a large asparagus fern on the front porch

-made a new salad with asparagus and white wine vinegarette

-relaxed at Flat Rock Creek Pool

-began reading collection of columns Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote during her time as a farm journalist in the Ozarks

-watched fireflies light up the backyard

-wrote this post

-walked about!

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5 thoughts on “Walkabouts

  1. Coffee ice cream — yum. And asparagus — double yum. (but not together – bleh)

    Interesting about LIW’s writings. I had no idea she did that.

    • Karen-
      Thanks for sharing the Weekend Roundup meme on your blog. Yes, LIW actually wrote these columns when she and A settled in Missouri to farm BEFORE she wrote the Little House books with her daughter. They offer much interesting insight about her as an adult.

  2. Your walks sound much more interesting than mine. We pretty much do the same boring one all the time. We live on a country road, so if we want to do anything different we have to drive and then walk. A few years ago I got a burr under my saddle about moving to a little town east of us called Granville. It’s founder patterned it after a typical New England town, so it’s very picturesque with a lively downtown where all the villagers gather. I just wanted to be able to walk out my door with the dog and walk downtown and meander the streets and the campus of Denison University. It didn’t work out and it’s probably for the best, because I wouldn’t have my chickens. But I wish I could have had it both ways. Lucky you, to have interesting paths to trod.

    • Susan–

      Based on pictures of your gorgeous front yard and other areas of your country digs, I’d say you made the right choice. I’m a city girl through and through and would not do well without easy access to places, but do I love what’s in walking distance of our home, namely some contact with nature. It makes me laugh that if the habitat was disturbed when they built these subdivisions, the animals sure didn’t let that stop them from reclaiming what was theirs! Granville sounds pretty cool, too.

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