Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Changing Seasons


There was a time, a few weeks ago, when I set out on my morning walk or run, that the little birdies would be singing their good mornings to each other before the sun cleared the mountain east of town.
Not now.

When I set out lately, it is still dark, with no hint of light or color in the eastern sky.
And all I hear are crickets.
Zillions of them.
And a dog or two barking at probably nothing sufficient to warrant such a vociferous response.

I get amused at myself on occasion in this environment because I am generally afraid of the dark.
This goes back to my very early childhood when I had horrible nightmare.
I was about two - small enough to still be sleeping in a crib and wear pajamas with feet in them.
I still remember this dream/incident to this day.
Down to the last detail.
I will not go into the details here (refer to my autobiography for that, ... oh, wait, I haven't published it yet...) but sufficient to say that it started me off with a deep and abiding distrust of the sunless hours.
Sort of like a vampire in reverse.

This was true even when I was a teenager in Southern California.
My parents knew of my proclivities and took advantage of them from time to time. (like the one Halloween they hung a five-foot tall cardboard skeleton from the ceiling light in my darkened bedroom.)

Or the time my family went camping on the California coast.
My mom and dad (step-dad, technically) and me and my (male) friend (whose name I cannot recall at this time) were taking a leisurely walk at dusk along a deserted country road near the campground.
My parents were walking about fifty feet behind my friend and I.
We had just seen a couple of small bats flitting around above the big trees and had made a comment to that effect, when my dad, sneaked up behind my friend and I and rattled a small branch with dried leaves on it he had found lying by the side of the road.
The two of us set a new world record for the 100 yard dash before realizing that we had been perpetrated against.

With that background, I am amused at myself some mornings as I set out in the silent darkness.
Actually it is not really silent.
There are the afore-mentioned crickets.
And there are cars humming in the distance.
And if the breeze is from the southwest on a weekday, I can hear Our Guys shouting out their cadence slogans as they run on the Arsenal a mile away.

To make things more challenging, I do not wear my glasses.
But my distance vision is nearly good enough to not need them.
(I can read a license plate at about twenty feet or so.)

Most of the time I see no one.
But there are a few folks that are out at that hour (5:30 - 6:30) sometimes.
Like the older man (even older than me!) who walks in bermuda shorts and carries a shillelagh.
He wears his glasses.

Or the young black man who silently rides his bike slowly through the neighborhood.
He came up behind me one morning and set off my alarms.
But he just kept on going.
He wears a hoody and in the darkness you can hardly see his face (especially if one does not wear one's glasses).
From his speed, I surmise that he is going somewhere definite, but is in no hurry to get there.

Then there is the bald-headed man who walks his two small yapping dogs some days.
I can hear him (them) coming a block away.
And the barking (for no real reason) of his dogs, sets off all the dogs in the neighborhood to yapping back.
I am temped every time I see him to admonish him to teach his domesticated canines to not bark on a walk.
But I just wave and smile as I pass as fast as I can, to get away from his noisy animals.

I greet everyone I meet.
Most of them greet back.
And I wave casually to the few cars that pass my way.
You never know when you will need a friend.
Though my street is usually quiet, this is a high crime area with lots of drug and drug-related activity going on at night just a few blocks away.
On occasional nights I am awakened by gun fire.
So I carry my knife on my walks.

By the time I arrive home from my walks, the birdies are awake and tuning up.


... was good.
Sort of.
I was feeling pretty good and as I started out in the humid morning air, I had a persistent thought that I should try to go six miles today.
I audibly answered the idea, saying, "We'll see."
At the top of Hill One I flirted with accelerated breathing, but nothing distressing.
Near the top of Hill Two, more accelerated breathing.
But it quickly settled down.
Hmmm, six miles?

By the time I came to the point of decision near the end of mile three, I was not so sure about going for six miles.
There was a brief discussion about the option, with both sides presenting arguments.

I am not sure I am ready for it yet, the cautious side said.
You will never know until you try, the aggressive side countered.
I need to build up to it, caution shot back.
Just do it, aggression replied, it is only one and a half more miles.
What about possible injuries from taking too big a step, caution whined.
Nothing is hurting; what injuries?
I need to think about it, said caution.
Never mind, you just passed the turn-off.

And so, the six mile distance remained an idea.
And , indeed, there were no sore places during (of after) the session.
No ice picks next to knees.
No broom sticks poking left hamstrings.
No screwdrivers in hip joints.

But about one half mile from the finish, accelerated breathing came for a visit and stayed for the duration.
This did not stop me from a final sprint over the last fifty yards or so.
But it did vindicate the cautious side of me.
My time was about forty-two minutes so this was a pretty strong session.

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