Friday, June 1, 2012

Walking to the moon and back

I wonder how many miles I’ve walked in my life?  I’ll bet I’ve walked to the moon and back.  My son gave me a pedometer once, but I never figured out how to program it.  I ought to.  That would be interesting.

The thing about walking I enjoy so much is the mindlessness.  It’s the only time of day that I truly let my thoughts wander.  I might start out thinking about something urgent or important, but by the time I’ve strolled past the first block, that’s enough of that.

My favorite walking route right now is a three or four mile route meandering through my neighborhood, where we all conscientiously clean up after our walking canine companions (well, not ALL of us; insert a mindful throat-clearing here).  Then I hit Broadway, walk past the beautiful, shaded Grace Episcople Church, cut over to the courthouse and walk around Dolly McNutt Plaza, where someone decided it was a good idea to infuse the fountain with an artificially bright aqua coloring.  (What’s up with that?) 

I stroll past the library, post office, former vegetable brokerage turned  antique mall turned deserted building, on to the Railroad Museum and make a loop around Carson Four Rivers Center.  Then I take in the old train, some Flood Wall Murals and cut into the river park. 
You never know what you’ll encounter in the river area.  Lots of elderly people sit on benches and gaze at the slow-moving river water and lazy barges.  Dogs chase the gentle waves that lap at the foot of Broadway.  Teenagers very much in love do what teenagers very much in love do (Get your mind out of the gutter!  This is a PG-rated column).  One day I even encountered a man playing the bagpipe as if in homage to the merging of the Ohio and Tennessee rivers.  The sound was so mournful and solemn I wanted to cry.

I’ve walked so many places – cities like New York, San Francisco, Boston, Vancouver, Philadelphia.  I’ve traipsed over mountain regions like in the Rockies, the Appalachians, the Smokies.  I’ve made my way through deserts, national parks, creek-side trails, rocky paths, river’s edges, backwoods trails, wildflower fields and small town sidewalks.

It’s been sweltering and freezing.  I walked during western Kentucky’s infamous ice storm.  That might not have been my most intelligent moment.  Branches weighted with inches of ice were falling like daggers and it sounded a bit like a war zone.  Still, it was dazzling.

I’ve walked under stunningly azure skies, skies filled with cumulus puffs of imagination, skies the color of skim milk, a black velvet sky sprinkled liberally with diamonds and skies leaking heaven’s tears.

I’ve seen squirrels, rabbits, moose, buffalo, fox, deer, wolves, snakes, mountain goats and so many birds I could have scored some major points on an aviary’s lifetime checklist.  I actually saw a white peacock roaming through the woods once.

I don’t usually take my phone when I walk.  I did the other day just because I was expecting to hear from someone, but it ended up falling out of my pocket.  A kind jogger passing by retraced my footsteps with me and kept calling it until we found it.  I’m going to leave it at home from now on.  It doesn’t belong on a walk.  It belongs in my car-driven, computer-checking, text-sending, instant-message life.

My walks belong to mindlessness.  My walks are a trip to the moon and back.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

My Paducah Life

When I graduated from Paducah Tilghman in 1978, I headed to Texas, where they grew ‘em tall (an important fact when you’re a girl and are 6 feet tall yourself). I waved goodbye to my parents, put the pedal to the metal and – after being stopped for speeding – carried all my worldly goods into a dormitory brimming with excited freshmen.

I wasn’t looking back.

Never did I dream that I would end up right back at “Go,” minus the $200 that I had been promised by the Game Fairy of Life. What a rip-off! I had gone 739 miles away to start my grand
adventure. How had this happened? How had I ended up right back here? I had had big plans that included writing for a national magazine, living in a city of diversity – heavy on the arts, having fabulous friends who were intelligent, funny, and interesting and I effortlessly remaining a size 4.

I sulked for a couple of years. I thought God had played an elaborate trick on me. I had actually prayed, “Anywhere but Paducah, God. I’ll go anywhere but Paducah.” (Now I’m experimenting with the prayer, “Anywhere but Hawaii, God.” But, reverse psychology doesn’t seem to be working on the Creator of the Universe.) Can’t tell you exactly why I was willing to go anywhere but Paducah.
And was I really serious about that? Was I willing to go to Kinshasa, the poorest city in the world where the Democratic Republic of the Congo has suffered though long-running internal wars, and is generally accepted as the poorest country in the world? Was I willing to go there over Paducah?

Eventually I grew tired of sulking. It takes a lot of energy to be mad at the universe. Slowly, I changed my attitude. Slowly, I realized I had not been ripped off at all. Yes, Rome was more romantic, but for my purposes, Paducah was stacking up quite nicely.

My criteria had been 1. Publishing my writing in a national magazine. Check. Not only have I been published nationally, I get to write regularly for two outstanding magazines 2. Living in a city of diversity – heavy on the arts. Check. I live in Lower Town, arguably the most diverse neighborhood in Paducah and full of artistic talent. 3. Fabulous friends. Check. Don’t get me going on the quality of my friendships. Somehow I have been able to find THE most wonderful people in the world right here. And, finally, 4. Effortlessly remaining a size 4. OK, truth is, I never was a size 4, at least not since I wore a 4T. Alas, I didn’t even remain a size…
Well, now, that's not really the point. Besides, how are you supposed to remain skinny when there are so many wonderful restaurants here? Flamingo Row alone is responsible for 10 pounds.

Still, poundage aside, Paducah Life is fantastic!