|To the Clearwater River|
The first mile or so was wonderful.
I listened to the birds sing.
I heard Gayle's cattle lowing.
And I was heartened by the gentle soughing of the summer breezes.
I watched the flock of ducks lift off from the wet spot in Ryan and Tyler's field. I listened to them calling to each other as they circled around briefly, only to land again further on.
I was stalked by a killer bird. Not really, of course. But I don't know for sure what kind of bird it is. But each year, those things drive me nuts. When they have a nest near the road, they swoop and dive to frighten away anyone who comes near. And they are quite large. With a big, long, frightening looking beak. The kind of resemble a woodcock, but bigger, and with longer legs. The last few years there have been so many of them dive-bombing anyone who walks along the road. The one today was not too unnerving. He or she circled above me squawking and fretting. But thankfully, I must not have a scary enough threat for the bird to need to resort to the dive-bomb technique.
I don't know what it is with me these days. I used to be energized by exercise. But now it just drags and drags. It's all I can do to make myself keep taking each step and continuing on. One more step, Mary. One foot in front of the other.
I sorely missed my walking ladies this morning. We usually just do three days a week, but I'm trying to get in five days of exercise each week. So that leaves me walking alone on some days. And I find the steps drag by terribly on those days.
But so it goes.
The first part of today's walk was tolerable, because of all the novelties. I was listening to all the fun summer sounds. I was breathing the lovely summer air. I could see the blue sky after several gloomy days, and feel the warmth of the stregthening sun.
Then I started to get tired and bored; and I just wanted to be done. I felt like a spoiled child.
"Whyyyyy can't I just be home.?"
"Whyyyyy am I doing this anyway?"
But I wasn't yet to the bridge. That's where we ladies usually turn around when we walk to the south. If we're feeling wimpy, though, or pressed for time, we might turn around at the mile road a short distance before the bridge. That point is 1.5 miles from home, so we get a three mile walk.
Which is good. Better than nothing. And today, since I was alone, I really wanted to turn around there.
Just when the temptation to turn around was pulling strongest, though, I saw an approaching car. As is typical around here, I waved as the car passed. But instead of a neighborly wave back, the driver gave a friendly tootle on her horn.
And I realized it was Louisa. My Louisa. My steadfast oldest daughter coming home from her night shift at McIntosh Senior Living Center.
And that gave me the motivation to carry on. If Louisa can work all night long, caring for others, and still drive her thirty miles home, I can make it walking those extra few hundred yards on a beautiful sunny morning.
Eventually I did make it to the river. It was somewhat more interesting than usual this morning. Because of all the recent rains, the sloughy areas nearby were draining into the river. And making a rushing sound. I could almost imagine that the brown sluggish muck that is called the Clearwater River was a clear and shallow mountain stream franticly traveling over round stones and jagged rocks.
First I peered over the east side of the bridge. Nothing much to see, but I took a moment to enjoy the sound. The west side is more picturesuqe. One this side there is a home nearby. The river takes a graceful curve. There is an area of trees branching along this part of the stream. One can imagine a mystery or two waiting in the unexplored hidey holes along the shoreline.
And today, today! I saw something I'd not seen before. Flowing from grasses to the north came two small streams. Very little streams, mind you. I could just see the paths where the water had thinned out and washed down the grasses. Two small streams. Perhaps each only six or seven inches across. The grasses still arched over these streams, so that although I could tell where the water was running through, I could not see the water. I could hear the water rushing down the five or eight foot drop from the level of the prairie down into the river. At the mouth of one of these small streams the grasses opened up. The stream widened out a few more inches. I descried the flowing waters. Minute ripples and eddies at the confluence of the wetland run-off and the river.
I peered at this little world. I imagined it in miniature. Hmmm, maybe I me an I imagined it enlarged. As if I was in miniature. The size of a small bird,perhaps. Then this little world would resemble the mountains and valleys and waterfalls of my native Washington.
But the romance only lasted a moment. Imagination can only go so far. I breathed deeply of the last vestiges of the fading notion, so that I could carry it with me along my way.
I turned homeward.
For the 1.8 mile walk home again.
I was treated to one new sound on the way home. At first I was perplexed. Why is the blackbird on the wire making such a strange noise? It was like a small growl or a scritching sound.
But it was a trick of the morning air. The sound was really coming from below. From the waters of the roadside ditch. It was the croaking of a frog or toad, singing his morning serenade.
"Scrrrr-itch. Scrrrr-itch. Scrrrr-itch."
A half mile or so further on, a whole host of frogs sang to me from the ditch as I passed by. Such a fun sound. I looked at that ditch, green with the new growth of grasses and cattail. The water reflected the blue of the summer sky. I spied not a hint of the amphibian villagers that were singing to me. They were there somewhere. Perhaps hundreds of them. Hidden among the springtime stems and leaves.
All too soon, I was past Frogtown. My steps once again began to drag. And I realized again, with chagrin, that I am growing old. Instead of feeling invigorated by my morning walk, I simply wanted to be home. I craved it. I could feel my feet aching. My shoulders hunching in fatigue.
It would have been different with my walking ladies, but Tuesday is not our walking day. When I have those ladies along, I can walk and walk. We talk and talk. And encourage each other with our friendship. And before we know it, we've finished our miles or minutes, or whatever our goal for the day.
As I neared home today, I could make out something out of place in the driveway near Matt's truck. One of the girls, I supposed. I kept my eyes on that blur. And soon I could perceive motion. Whichever child it was appeared to have seen me nearing also. She came down the driveway. And began to cross the church parking lot.
By that time, we were near enough to wave. When we got near enough to holler to each other, Stella said, "I'm trying to see if my baby steps or your big steps will win."
And so began our little game. I lengthened my stride just a bit. When she saw that her baby steps were not going to get her to the mailbox in time, she also lengthened hers. A few more strides and we were still neck in neck. I ran. She ran. And my longer legs got me to the mailbox one stride before she arrived.
We laughed. And hugged. And smiled.
And walked hand in hand, back through the parking lot, up the driveway, toward the house.
It's good to be home.