The Hillhouse

The Journey of a Mother and Son

Low Gear September 13, 2013

After awaking from a scant five hours of sleep this morning, I wondered how it was that I’d make it through the day. Elihu had a classmate coming home from school with him today, his bass needed to be picked up at the music store, and I desperately needed various necessities, from chicken feed to toilet paper. Plus I still had to put in my shift at school. Man, I didn’t see how I was going to get all of it done. We’d been plowing through our first full week of school and my new schedule in high-energy mode. And now, after last night’s outing at the school, it just seemed that there wasn’t anything left. Yet on came life, to-do lists and playdates, without pause. After putting the kettle on I laid down on the couch and closed my eyes, trying to glean some refreshment from twenty seconds of rest. I took a couple of breaths, then got up to resume the morning.

Elihu had awakened on his own – a surprise to me after all that late-night rabble rousing. (He’d even jumped on the trampoline for another ten minutes after we got home last night in order to ‘get out the last of his energy’. Seems all my energy stays on in whirling eddies of endless thought… Wish I had a mental trampoline to expend all of that before bedtime. Might help with my chronic difficulty sleeping.) This morning he was cheerful and our breakfast was a lovely start to the day. We let the chickens out, got in the car and headed off to school. On the way we passed several neighbors out jogging. We waved to each other as we usually do. A few minutes passed, then Elihu said from the back seat “Mama, I’d like you to be in as good shape as Mr. Stewart.” The sixth grade teacher was known to all the younger kids as being the only grownup who joined the kids in their play – making Thursdays extra special by playing tag with them. I thought about the quick movements, the sprinting involved and did a quick assessment of my current condition. I remembered as a kid, hell, as a young adult even, thinking that only wimps – people who’d lazily given in to age – lost their speed and agility. While I’d never been a particularly fast or agile kid, I was able to move in certain ways that I just don’t think I’m able to right now. “No one’s in as good shape as Mr. Stewart” I retorted, trying to dodge the real issue. I thought about it for a minute. “But I know what you mean. I do. I know, sweetie, I need to move.” A bit more quiet passed, then Elihu suggested “Just walk up to the Brown’s. That’s not far. It won’t seem like a big deal at all. Just do that today.” I did a little scan of my body, of my mental fortitude, and felt I could easily do that to get things going. I agreed. He had his homework each day – not a bad idea that I might have a little challenge on my plate too.

These past few years I’ve been feeling just too overwhelmed and busy to find time to move. I tell myself that my situation is exceptional, that I have every reason not to exercise. And maybe I do. But so too do the other folks that I see jogging down Braim Road. Yeah, in fact they’ve likely got more responsibilities than I do; work loads involving people and paper and rules – stuff that I’ve spent a lifetime deftly avoiding – and they’ve likely got more stress in their lives than I do. Ok, so maybe they’re not single-parenting a young child, but they’ve got other work, other issues. And somehow they make time. Every time I see one of them passing on the road, I have to ignore a tiny voice deep inside that scolds me for not at least trying. So today, as soon as I got home from driving Elihu to school, I went for a walk.

I was grateful for my new hiking boots – they’d give me some needed stability. (I had bought them in anticipation of a long-awaited trek we’d planned for this fall that would involve steep grades and would wind its way to an off-the-trail site deep in the woods known locally as Devil’s Den. Maybe not a big deal to the me of twenty years ago, these days I felt I needed correct footwear before endeavoring to make the hike.) Thankfully, the annoying bugs of summer were mostly gone – in spite of recent tropical heat. It was finally cool out, and sunny too. I simply could not have hoped for a better day. The conditions had stripped me of every excuse. It was time.

I set out, crunching my way down the new driveway. The scent of the woods hit me. I could smell the ferns, the damp of the forest floor, the turning leaves, the cool, ancient stones. The road is always different when you’re moving slow, and I marveled at the things I could see now that I was moving at a walking pace. I found several dead frogs, a few different species of em (and I told them each I was sorry for their tragic end and said a little blessing for them as I passed). I saw a mourning dove on the wire above me. Frightened at my approach, she would fly to a spot only a few feet further down the line to escape. Silly bird, she continued thusly for a good part of my walk. While I sometimes see the crimson males swooping over the road as I drive (strangely, we don’t get cardinals at our feeders) I was happily surprised to see a female cardinal above my head on the wire, flicking her tail. Came upon the now decomposed remains of a porcupine and a raccoon that had both been hit sometime mid summer. They were now mostly skeletons – only quills, whiskers and rubbery noses remained. I gathered up the jawbone and some teeth of the raccoon and put it in my shirt pocket to bring home for Elihu.

While I slowed to notice the creatures in my path, I was always mindful of keeping my pace. And on the way back I began to feel it; the grade in our area is deceptive – hills are gradual and hardly noticeable – especially when you’re going down. But the way back was all a slow increase in grade, and I began to feel it in my body. I felt my muscles warm up, my feet grip the road, my whole body engage to support my progress. I hadn’t felt my body in a long time, and I was surprised to find I was glad of it. The brief walk down the hill to the garden and back up again was the extent to my workout routine these days. This slight increase in grade wasn’t terribly hard, so therefore I was able to give myself to it. To push into it and become aware of my body. It felt good. But would I manage to do this again? Every day even? I decided not to worry about it, but rather be glad that I’d finally done it at all. The driveway was still going uphill. I felt my butt muscles working, my thighs, my arms swung to assist and I swear that even my back got in on the act. Clearly, I was starting all over with this moving thing. Years ago I regularly participated in races – 5Ks and 10Ks – up and down hills far steeper than this… I felt a bit wimpy about celebrating such a thing as walking up my driveway.

But hey, everything has to start small. And to get into high gear, you gotta put in low gear first. So wish me luck.

 

6 Responses to “Low Gear”

  1. Lindy A. Says:

    Wish I could get myself to emulate you! Congratulations on a victory!

  2. Lisa Says:

    I so understand that “but my life is exceptional” thing when it comes to avoiding self-care. For me, it’s “I work nights and have a toddler and a kid with disabilities.” But yet somehow there’s time to throw away on what are essentially time-frittering, numbing activities. Just recently I began walking daily, no matter what, and I have an appointment to see a nutritionist, who will take me to task on my shoddy hand-to-mouth habits. The walks are great for mental health, even if I still need to deep-six that size *hrmph* pair of jeans that worked in my thirties. So I’m with you in spirit when you pull on those boots despite being wiped out. Just wish I had such stunning environs to enjoy!

    • wingmother Says:

      well, we’ll see how it pans out. If I get out for a walk a couple of times a week – to start – I’ll allow myself to call that a success, albeit a small one. Tomorrow Elihu’s walking with me. Guess he’s my coach. !

  3. Gene Burnett Says:

    Excellent! Not only is it healthy to walk…I think it’s unhealthy to not walk. I think we are adapted to walk, It’s how we wandered all over the planet, long before anyone ever got the bright idea to ride a horse. Modern life has succeeded in getting us out of our legs, but we do so at our peril. I haven’t driven a car since 1975. I bike or walk everywhere. My brother came to visit from L.A. a few years back. We were walking the 1/4 mile from our apartment to our downtown when he said that this was the longest he had walked in 5 years. We all laughed and then he said, I’m totally serious. Keep it up! There are so many cool things out there that you will never notice if you only drive…like female cardinals (one of my favorite birds…I actually prefer them to the males…none here sadly…) and awesome roadkill. ;~) GB

    • wingmother Says:

      Dude, seriously, 1975? Yeeps. Yeah, I’m a lazy-ass rider of cars. Ironically, my carbon footprint expanded when I moved to the country. In Evanston/Rogers Park the world was possible on public transit or foot, but here a car is essential to life. Here we mindfully load up on supplies as we don’t care to make extra, needless trips ‘to town’. Pretty funny about your LA brother. I can identify. !!

      • Gene Burnett Says:

        OK, it was 1976. ;~) I have nothing against cars. I just never got the hang of driving. My parents split up and my mom didn’t drive. I learned but it never became second nature. Then I moved to NYC where having a car was kind of ridiculous…and then Seattle where the bus system was awesome…and before I knew it, it had been years since I had driven and I just said to Hell with it and started getting state ID cards instead of driver’s licenses. I also really like getting around under my own power. Driving is fine, but I do think a certain amount of walking is essential to good health and happiness. I also happen to live in a town where a car is not necessary. One of the reasons we chose it. GB


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