I day dream when I walk. I’ve got my Bose headphones perched on my head. (Thanks Rosemary). Making me look like Mickey Mouse. Listening to my funky, hip-hop music to keep my slow feet and slower following butt moving. I’m usually singing along. Smiling, glancing at the sky, lake, ground, or oncoming traffic. Making up my own lyrics along the way. Cause I don’t have a clue what P!nk, Maroon 5, Pitbull, Flo-rida, Ke$ha, or Enrique are really saying most of the time. Ah, the joys of being severely hearing impaired. If someone is nearby, I hope my made up lyrics give them a laugh.
|Headphones, lip balm, iPod, key. Umm yup it’s a knife and some mace go walking with me…|
Winter’s strong hold on our weather has finally lost it’s grip. Amen! After a not too bad January, February just knocked me for a loop. Much colder than normal temps, topped with lots of new snow. Which is finally melting. Years ago I was so dedicated to my walking routine, if we were having a blizzard, I’d slip and slide 10 miles in the car to walk indoors at our mall. Sigh. Wish I had that kind of determination and dedication now. But I do not.
I started walking in 1998. Seventeen years ago! Holy cow. John had just been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. We were both heavy and needed to make some lifestyle changes. We live at the bottom of a hill on Muskegon Lake. To get to any sidewalks, there’s no way around it. You got to get your hiney to the top of the hill. Well that’s about as far as me and my hiney could muster. And I was puffing like a steam engine. Along with a pretty strict diet, I lost about 75 pounds. But it was the walking that gave my spirits, my whole outlook on life a wonderful new perspective. Not that there hasn’t been plenty of bumps, potholes, black ice, broken bones, and surgeries trying to block my walking path. But in 17 years of pretty consistent daily walks, I can count on one hand the number of times I felt worse instead of better after my walk. I find that amazing and smile worthy. Thanks God.
I used to be quite brave and never gave it a thought to walk at 5 in the morning or 10 at night. Not anymore. Along with my severe hearing disability I have Meniere’s Disease. A fluctuation of inner ear fluids which affect my balance. If I look up to watch a hawk in flight, a couple yards later, I may be walking 3 feet to the left. I’m wobbly on ladders, stairs or just not paying attention to what I’m doing. I’ve finally come to terms that I need to walk on relatively dry pavement. And in broad daylight.
Reflecting back on my walking journey is like reading an old diary. Certain days, accidents, events, some pleasant and poignant, some miserable and painful. But all part of what makes me-me. As it got easier to reach the top of our hill, I ventured further away. One day I was about a mile away. I noticed a woman walking towards me. She was on the outside of the sidewalk with a dog on a leash on the inside. I glanced at her again when she was closer and noticed she had moved the pooch to the outside, on the grass. I smiled as we met, but kept my same pace (I was much faster then-sigh) with my arms a-swinging with every stride. I had already passed her when I felt this humongous tug. Stopped me dead in my tracks! I whirled around to find her standing with her dog between her legs. Squeezed tight. This crazy animal was snarling, snapping, wiggling, and yelping to get free and snack on my face. What? She said, “are you hurt?” I wasn’t sure of anything right then. She was trying to get her dog calmed down, but he was still going berserk. I felt my back, tugged my t-shirt around and found a gaping 4 inch hole in my shirt. Wow. He had torn a hunk of shirt but missed a piece of Neese. She said, “oh give me your phone number and I’ll send you money for a new t-shirt.” “Ah, no thanks. How about keeping your /?!%$/! dog off the /?!%$/! sidewalk?” Oops. Sorry bout that. I later noticed a “dog whisperer” at her house several times after that little dance we shared.
North Muskegon, (Snootyville) is in between Muskegon Lake and Bear Lake. Most of the residential area is quite narrow, block wise. We have one main street through town. You can imagine how busy this street is while soccer moms, doctors, lawyers, business owners are vying to get anywhere. Their time is SO much more valuable than mine (the lowly walker). I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come THIS close to getting hit by a car. (I argue I’m the pedestrian and have the right to cross a street. If they are turning, they need to yield to me. John insists I’m going to be “dead right.”) If it weren’t so dangerous and pathetic, it would be funny. Most of the time I’m pretty safe cause I’m on the sidewalk. Not during the winter though. Since many flee this miserable area during the long winter, none of the side walks get shoveled. If the weather breaks for a couple days, walking must be on the side of the road or through 3 feet of snow on the sidewalks. Which is probably better for the chubby thighs, but no thanks. I routinely see people driving with reading material wedged between their steering wheel. Gals applying make up or doing their hair. One 30-ish dude driving a Hummer has a big bowl held high on his chest and eats cereal every morning. Guess he steers with his knees. Another dude has his tie flung over his back so he doesn’t get a spot on it while he eats what appears to be a nice home cooked breakfast. Not to worry. This only accounts for about 25% of the morning drivers. The other 75% are texting, talking, emailing, Twitting or Facebooking on their phones. So dumb. And that’s doing 30 mph through town.
|Muskegon Lake on the left, small Bear Lake on right. Glorious Lake Michigan on top…|
After the first couple years of consistently walking 5 miles a day, my feet started to protest. My body seems to have 3 problems spots. One of course is my ears. Or head. If the noises weren’t so loud in my head, I would be able to understand what people are saying. Second is my constant problems with my right foot. It’s just one thing after another. Surgery on my big toe requiring several months off from my walking routine. A chronic “hotspot” swelling on the bottom of the ball of my foot. Plantar Fasciitis requiring 400 dollar orthotic inserts. Now I’ve got a hammertoe on the same foot. Plus I get blisters on the same 2 toes every couple weeks. Ugh.
Then there’s my left elbow. Four years into walking, I slipped on some acorns on a dark early morning walk. Embarrassed to admit that. Landed on my left elbow. I finally got myself into a sitting position, but could not stand up without help. My elbow bone was somewhere near my upper arm. A man riding his bike to work stopped to help, and called John to come get me. That little spill required surgery with twelve staples, and a couple pins putting things back in the right place. The specialist said I would never be able to straighten my arm again. But with painful-tear-squirting-physical-therapy, I’m happy to say, my arm is almost straight. Much better than Doc ever hoped. Yay! Forward about 8 years, dang if I didn’t clip a rock on the side of my shoe and went down again. Got back up, felt all my parts, which appeared intact. Adjusted my headphones which had flown off and kept on walking. It was almost light out (no, I hadn’t learned that valuable lesson yet). After another block, I started seeing spots. Wow, this felt weird. If I could just make it to a small sign post and hang on until the dizziness passed. Next thing I knew, I opened my eyes and was on flat on my back in a patch of sumac and weeds along our new walking/bike path. Huh. Time to head back. Made it home, then noticed blood running down my shirt sleeve. Huge knot-wouldn’t you know it. My left elbow. Dreaded waking up John who always preached that I should walk during the day. Or going back to the specialist again. Yup, broke the same elbow. Not nearly as complicated this time though. But that was the last day I walked without good lighting. Takes me awhile to learn my limitations.
|My favorite tree at Niagara Falls, warts and all…|
When I’m packing for any trip, it’s unusual for me not to include a bag with all my walking paraphernalia. Some of my favorite walks have been in locations that are new to me. A couple times I’ve stayed at Niagara Falls and did my daily walk along the Falls. How many people get to do that? Ever? Absolutely awesome! One of the days it was pouring down rain, but I would not or could not give up that morning walk. I was soaked but exhilarated. (My walking shorts were stiff as a board for the trip’s duration). Since the weather was so ugly that morning, I virtually had the Falls to myself. How many people get to say that? Ever? You do have to pay attention there though. The asphalt is quite uneven. It’s the only time while I’m walking that I occasionly stop to gawk at the Falls for a minute, then move on.
|Niagara Falls. Sorry Sherman Williams. Only God can make this color…|
When John and I went through Michigan’s UP a few years ago, I experienced some of my most memorable walks. We were staying in Munising. It was late June and their lilacs were blooming (that happens here around Memorial Day, a month earlier). Walking along the shore of the exquisite emerald green Lake Superior. Almost intoxicating. Too beautiful for words. Then we crossed over to Duluth, Minnesota. They have shipping docks filled with 1000 foot tankers below where I was walking. It’s amazing when I see one pass in our backyard, but a hundred of them in one spot was awesome. Next we headed to our good friends Dale and Beth Duits in Minnesota. They had just bought a vacation home, so we stayed there instead of their farm. I walked the shores of Lake Ottertail. Moving west and south we stopped at our nephew Ken’s house near Spencer. (I think he owns the little town called Langdon). Some of the best farm land in the world. So I walked gravel roads, along crops of corn a little taller than knee high. A quicky visit in Le Mars at Les and Mary Jane’s house. Walked down the boulevard with beautiful homes. Got close enough to see Well’s Blue Bunny’s multiple, massive plants. Ice cream capital of the world. Last stop was Sioux Falls for a couple nights. Nice hotel in that expanding city. So I walked through a new housing addition. Each one with their own take on landscaping. Which I like to critique to myself. “Ick, what’s wrong with them? Or, love that! Gotta look up the name of that shrub.”
|Lake Superior and Pictured Rocks. It’s really emerald green…|
Some days when I walk, odd things happen. I was walking very early when a older lady I know opened her front door. She was stark naked. When I stopped and picked up my jaw off the sidewalk I said, “morning, do you need some help?” She looked at me, but was not seeing me. I called her son when I got home. She moved in with her daughter right after that. Another time a heavy-set older gal was walking towards me. She held up her hand as she got closer. Like, stop-halt! Which I did. Slipped off my headphones. She said, “I don’t know if you realize what an inspiration you’ve been to me and some of my friends with weight issues. We see you walking everyday. Without fail. We notice you’re shrinking month by month. You really have no idea what that means to the rest of us. To just keep plugging along. Thanks so much.”…