When I was a kid, my family had two cures for everything: a cup of tea (heavy on the milk and sugar) and a walk.
These days I drink my tea black but I’ve been walking a lot. With the insecurity and isolation of Covid-19 piled on top of the isolation of working from home, sometimes I head out just to reassure myself that the outside world still exists.
Walking can be solitary, if I choose, or social, assuming my pal and I are keeping our social distance. Exercise is a boon to our psyches and our immune systems, so that’s good right now. And double bonus: We live in a place so magnificent for walking that there should be Cape Walk Bingo Cards with squares that include a black dog, a laughing gull, a cranberry bog, a hydrangea, maybe a turkey. But most importantly, taking a walk distracts me from all the whacko thoughts that are swirling in my brain right now.
Because….Something always happens when you take a walk.
One day, I was in a real slump, both physically and mentally, so I went for a walk. Around the corner and up the street, I ran into a neighbor playing his bagpipes. “Hey,” he said, “I need to practice marching and playing at the same time. Can you set the pace?” So, the two of us marched resolutely down the cul-de-sac as he played “Scotland the Brave.”
On a recent walk, I watched as the goats in the nearby field, hired to eat down the brush, had a standoff with four local deer, which nimbly jumped over the pasture fence and out again to get at the water on the other side.
And just last week, I was walking down the road and a car pulled up and stopped. A young man opened his window and asked, “Have you seen an eagle? I think I just saw one.”
“Eagles?” I was stunned. I’ve heard of them here on the Cape but never seen one. Now, spotting an eagle is my daily goal to get me out the door. I might leave my house worried about running out of hand sanitizer or toilet paper, and by the time I get to the next block, I’m looking for eagles. In the meantime, I’ve watched a red-tailed hawk soar over the millpond and impressed seven turkeys by putting my hands on my hips.
Fun fact: I’ve yet to see the eagles but while I was out walking, a neighbor took a photo of one perched in a tree. In my yard.
It actually doesn’t matter if I ever see them. Something always happens on a walk to calm my inner turmoil. One day I was walking through my suburban-style neighborhood, mostly houses with trimmed lawns and tidy driveways and few surprises. But something on the ground caught my eye: a smudged index card lying next to someone’s trash can.
I picked it up. On one side, it read in pencil in a neat cursive hand: “Old age is all in your head...until it gets in your joints.” Ha, true that, I thought, and turned it over. On the other side was a penciled message that was so eerily meant for me:
“Each day comes bearing its own gifts -- just untie the ribbon!”
I took it home and put it on the fridge as a reminder to look at the gift each walk brings. Maybe it will be an eagle.