One of the amazing writing tools I learned from my time in the writing project was to just let your ideas flow…to let your words jump from one topic to the next and that sometimes this jumping would lead to a topic worthy or fleshing out. Maybe even sharing. While walking today I realized that letting my mind wander was a great way to pass the time. Yes, the music was pumping and from time to time the mechanical voice on the Nike app would bust in and talk to me, but for the most part…I spent my walk letting my mind wander. And I smiled.
With my keys tied tightly in the drawstring of my shorts, I set off down the track. Red mud rocked my balance as I made my way from the parking lot to the trail. A beautiful little storm passed through early this morning, and the ground had not yet soaked it all in. Before I even opened my eyes this morning I heard the rain tapping against the window, the thunder rolling in the distance, and the wind dancing in the trees. And I smiled.
The first big curve in the trail opened up to reveal the soccer fields. My thoughts went to my Nike app friends. One in particular. Our 100 mile challenge doesn't start until tomorrow, but that’s not why I smiled. As of yesterday (my first day on the app) I was just over seven miles behind B in miles walked this month. Never one to back down from a challenge, she would see today's walk as…GET UP AND GO! I CAN’T LET HER BEAT ME! Again I smiled…not because I was closing the gap between us but because she would see my total go up and think I was chasing her. My walk would ensure that she pushed herself a bit so that she remained the leader. The champion. Me? I smiled because I knew that I was out walking on this day because 1) the air was cool after the morning rain, 2) I needed a way to work out the stiffness in my legs from yesterday’s walk, and 3) I’m trying very hard to establish a healthy walking habit. My walk had nothing to do with catching up to her stats. My friend, however, would see that I walked and 1) let me know that there was no way I was catching her, and 2) be proud of me for walking and yet push herself harder on her walk today to ensure that I say a safe distance behind her. I thought of her power walking through her neighborhood to stay just a bit ahead. And I smiled.
Which led my thoughts back to our challenge…100 miles before we go back on contract. No problem…except for the week I’ll be at the beach. Hmmm…beach walking can be fun and the sights are amazing and the wind and waves keep you from getting too hot while walking. But Ft. Walton Beach isn't made for great walking. The shoreline is too angled...too steep. It makes my legs hurt, and not that good hurt that comes from exercising. But there’s always the road…an early morning walk. And then I realized that I won’t have to walk on my own. S will be there. And she’s in the challenge, too. We can’t let B get too far ahead of us. So we’ll walk together even though we will be on vacation. Because that’s what friends do. They challenge each other to be better and stronger and healthier. And yes, we are competing to an extent, but we are friends first. I thought of my friends, and I smiled.
The top of my head itched a bit so I reached up to scratch it and I felt the part for my two pathetic little pony tails. My hair is too short for one but too long to not pull back when exercising. Two teeny pony tails at the back of my head is my only option. While home for Nana’s funeral and Easter, I asked Haley to get me a couple of pony tail holders. She came back with two for me…and two already in her hair. While on my errand she decided to pull her hair back just like she knew I would be pulling mine. My Haley Girl. This silly amazing funny sweet sparkling big dreaming little piece of sunshine. God knew what he was doing when he sent her to us. She had pulled her hair up like mine. And I smiled.
The rain left puddles on the trail. Some big and some small. In some places the water still ran in search of a final pond, puddle, creek, or a hidden dry place waiting for a little water to ease its pain. Water flows into the ditch at the corner of Parnell Road and Carol Street. When the fire hydrant was opened on that same corner the water flooded both streets before disappearing down the drains and culverts. As neighborhood kids, we lived for those days. We stomped and splashed and kicked water at one another until we were kicking the street itself because the flood had finally ceased. I reached the small puddle on the track and walked through it instead of around it. The coolness splashed up onto the backs of my legs as I stomped through the puddle and kicked water at the dry-ish space in front of me. And I smiled.
After ducking under one of my favorite side roads, the path climbed up a bit. At the top of the hill I realized that Britt Nicole as singing “You’re worth more than gold.” Such a great phrase. My sister tells her girls that she loves them “more than a rainbow.” Aunt Diane’s phrase of choice was always “I love you to the moon and back.” That simple and yet powerful phrase seemed to belong only to her before she left us. Now, you can’t walk into a place selling home decorations or a gift shop without those words dancing across a canvas, a pillow, or a painted piece of driftwood. It’s amazing how much the world changes after a loved one passes. Sadness is inevitable, but sometimes you get happy little reminders sent straight from heaven. I thought about her hugs and lipstick-y kisses. And I smiled.
The mechanical app voice told me that I had walked a mile. She told me how long I had been walking. Little slower than yesterday, but no reason to feel discouraged. I knew I was moving slightly slower than yesterday. I felt it in my calves. And then Pharrell was singing and telling me to clap along if I felt like a room without a roof. I didn't want to clap along. I did, however, want to dance. I wanted to dance like Kevin Bacon in Footloose. I wanted jump around with my hands above my head. I wanted to close my eyes and swing my head and pump my fists in the air. I didn't do any of those things. My calves were burning and I was a little winded and I was walking along a stretch of the trail visible to passing cars. Instead...I felt that song in my head and in my heart. Eventually I WILL dance and sing while walking the trail and listening to that song. I thought of the day that I really won't care who sees me because I will be so fit that I actually can jump around like Kevin Bacon and pump my fists in the air because my calves are burning and I'm not winded. I thought of that day that's coming. And I smiled.
After turning around on the trail and heading back to the car, I spotted the bench. M and I once stopped our bike ride at that bench. We were, sad to say, exhausted after riding our bikes for the first time in months. We huffed and puffed down the trail believing that we were really covering ground only to reach the bench and discover that we hadn't even completed one mile. While she sat on the bench, I laid on the ground with my feet propped up. I was tired. My feet had gone to sleep. Little kids and moms pushing strollers and grandpas running…they all passed us by. In an attempt to hide our lack of physical fitness, we pretended to look for shapes in the clouds. We laughed at each other. We laughed at ourselves. I thought of that ride. And I smiled.
The path ran through a small grove of trees. Just as I entered the shade a happy little breeze passed through the trees. A lot of people think the “Happy Little Trees” painter coined that phrase, but they are wrong. “Happy Little…” belongs to Nana. Especially when it’s a happy little breeze. Whether sitting on the beach or out on the patio or in the gazebo or just watching a ballgame…the wind would begin to blow and Nana would smile and say, “Oh…that’s a happy little breeze.” I raised my hands above my head and thanked Nana for sending the breeze to cool me off. I thought of her wobbly walk and her big booming laugh and her funky sense of style. I thought of her. And I smiled.
I was almost back to the car when I thought about today being Father’s Day. While this wasn't the first time today I thought about it (I was on Facebook this morning…it’s kinda hard to miss), this was the first time along my walk that I thought about the significant role that my dad has played in my life. He’s a role model. A coach. A cheerleader. A die-hard Razorback fan. A Pawpaw. A grill-master. A puller of skiers. A fixer. A beach bum. A listener. A giver of expert advice. A prayer warrior. A believer. A tough guy. A teddy bear. An ice cream eater. A cookie thief. A friend. A father. A dad. I thought of him. And I smiled.