I went on a walk

Considering it is 25 degrees here in upstate New York, that is an amazing feat! It dawned on me as I was doing my morning writing, reflecting on a writing retreat I took part in yesterday (more on that to come), that I hadn’t completed the assignment she had left us with yesterday afternoon in the minutes just before this country became chaotic and unimaginable. I could not believe the things that were happening on the screen I had tuned into as I was seeking to get an update on the fate of the Senate races in Georgia. Instead, what started out as a normal rite of passage, the certification of the votes for the next President, soon turned into anarchy and violence. So glued was I to the unfolding news that it took a text from my son reminding me he was done with school to rattle me back into my world.

The rest of the day went along, I moved away from the screen, into a book, into conversation with my son, back to my email where a teacher had responded to a note I had sent the day before. The school year hasn’t been without struggles and this teacher and my son have not had an easy relationship this year. She wants him to act a certain way (understandable), but he is bored and unchallenged and there is more stress than ever due to Covid so other options aren’t readily available. Feeling her response was terse, I tamped down the urge to respond in kind, something regretful, and so I put it away. The first response is not always the best, I have found. I decided to sleep on it.

The morning was good, the house quiet, meditation, reading and writing were complete and I felt centered. If you’ve a teen who doesn’t like to get out of bed for school, you might understand how easy it is to get out of that nice, centered place. I ended up using a word, I don’t normally allow anyone in our house to use because it was seven f’ing thirty and he was still in bed after two reminders/warnings. School starts at 8. I was immediately regretful I had lost it, told him I’d be waiting in the (cold) car and tried to get myself together again.

On the way to school I tried to engage in small talk and finally came around to the note I received from his teacher, who he knew I had written to on Tuesday. He’d be in her class again today and I wanted to give him a pep talk to just quietly, respectfully, get through her class. The option I had floated to do it as independent study was rejected. He’d have to make the best of it for the remainder of the year. He is acing the class without putting in any work which I tried to sell him as a bonus, – this is an easy A – just keep your head down and do the work, keep the comments, the sighs, the physical embodiment of boredom to a minimum. But I was still bothered there would be no resolution to this. I had to move on too.

The walk! We were supposed to go on a 10 minute “wonderwalk” after our writing session finished yesterday which did not happen and I would have to do it this morning, after I’d been agitated by circumstances. I didn’t want to go on a “wonderwalk”. But I am eager to do everything right, to do what is asked, to get as much out of this six month writing Mastermind as I can. And so I returned from dropping off my son, bundled up and took a walk down to the next neighborhood as mine is not walkable with too much morning traffic.

The idea of the walk was to look around at things that are familiar and try to see them in a different way, at least that’s what I think we were supposed to be doing. With the trees bare, it was a lot easier to see into my neighbors backyards and I noticed one who had put so many additions on his garage that it was now bigger than his house. Was this the type of wonder-noticing our teacher meant? When I turned off my street into the next neighborhood it instantly hit me I’d never been on a walk here without accompaniment. When I was a new mother, it was a baby stroller I pushed along the rows of raised ranches and Colonials that dotted these streets, and then soon after a puppy came into our lives and Murphy was my companion for the next several years. This was the first time I had returned to the neighborhood since his passing just before Thanksgiving 2019.

Maybe the walk wasn’t going to be about wonder after all. There would be no looking at trees, seeking out birdsong, waving at the families lined up for the bus. Instead I noticed where the woman with the two large standard poodles lives, and wondered if they were still here. I passed the home of a couple from our church who had a golden just like ours and would fondly recall the times they would run around the yard and play.

By the time I finished my walk, though, my head was clear of the morning frustrations. It dawned on me that I had completed another necessary part of my grief over Murphy’s passing. I had revisited our ambling walking path and I had come out in tact and next time it wouldn’t be so hard. The cold on my cheeks made me feel more alive than I have in a while and an idea to write sprang easily and effortlessly. The idea that I needed a baby or dog to walk in the neighborhood, also got stripped away. That is progress.


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