This morning I woke up at 5:26 AM. It’s summer, and I’m a high school English teacher on summer break. Considering that the alarm goes off at 4:30 every day during the school year, waking at 5:26, sans alarm, is actually sleeping in. I made a commitment several weeks ago: I’m going to walk in the Columbus half-marathon in October. In order to meet that goal, I need to train, no small task given that I’m not in very good shape. But, I have been faithful; I have a training schedule; today marks the beginning of the third week of training, and I’m on schedule. Since I was already awake, and because I wanted to walk before the heat of the day descends, I got out of bed and headed out the door.
This morning’s walk, as with every walk thus far, was an occasion for rumination. A myriad of seemingly disparate, but strangely related, ideas flitted through my head as I walked along with Bristol, my beloved mixed-Terrier shelter dog (some say we rescued her from the shelter, but I believe she rescued us). My first thought was that it was a beautiful morning – the kind of morning that I’ve been missing lately. It’s been a different summer: usually we camp most of the summer, but this summer, my husband had a total knee replacement, so while he recuperates, our camping has been and will be curtailed until at least the latter to end part of the summer. This morning, though, was like the camping mornings I so enjoy. When we camp, I’m usually the first one up, and since my internal body clock is set to rise early during the school year (remember the 4:30 AM mandatory wake-up call), I tend to wake at the the literal crack of dawn, school or not. It wasn’t always this way, though. Teaching has made me a morning person, and I’m glad. Mornings are wonderful – the “filet mignon” of the day, according to a dear, departed friend.
My first thought as I stepped outside was that the morning was delightfully cool. It’s been blisteringly hot and humid with an inordinate amount of rain. But, not today. The sun, starting to rise, colored the eastern sky orangish-red; while a few clouds, gathered on the western horizon, began their slow march eastward. It was that time of day – no longer night, but not quite morning – that ethereal time in-between – that I love. I love it because it is so still, so quiet, so soft.
My second thought was one of gratitude: I am grateful that I live in Dublin, OH. Though I pay high real estate taxes in Dublin, I don’t begrudge those in the least because it’s a community of great schools and quality of life; I can see where and how my tax dollars are being put to good use. Thanks to the awesome city planners, Dublin boasts miles and miles of walking/biking trails that connect the whole city. The trails are well-maintained, and many are woven through parks and woodlands and wetlands. Mature trees, with their welcoming shade, and vibrant plantings of annuals and perennials, bursting in riotous color, line the walks. Wooden bridges span the creek in numerous places along my walking route; there’s been a respite from the recent rains, so the creek, lately a raging torrent, has softened into a babbling brook. Soft morning, soft birdsong, soft babble of the brook. Soft. Softly speaking to me, all around. Playgrounds, still and silent, wait patiently for their eager charges, and meticulously groomed baseball fields sit empty and quietly, for a time. Dublin is green, and right now, it’s in full, glorious bloom. Just beautiful.
I don’t listen to music when I walk for the same reason that I prefer to have my windows open (in my house and in my car) rather than having the air conditioning on: I want to hear what’s going on around me. With earbuds in (just like with the air conditioning on), I feel enclosed, caved-in, claustrophobic. Besides, what better music is there than birdsong? I love to hear the birds when I walk. They compose a symphony unparalleled, indeed a joyful noise. This morning the birds did not disappoint. They were joined in chorus by some raucous bullfrogs, slightly out of tune, but nevertheless lively and passionate about their song. And bunnies. Bunnies danced and darted, flitted and fluttered across the path. Feisty and spunky, ears pricked, nose twitching, tail wagging a mile-a-minute, Bristol was awash in sensory delight. Birdies. And bunnies. Oh, and squirrels. Maybe sensory overload.
For the first hour of my walk, it was just me and Bristol and the birds and the bunnies, oh – and the squirrels. That’s an advantage to heading out the door at 6:14 AM. I had the trail to myself. A lone biker (or cyclist, I guess) came up behind me as I crossed over the bridge into the wetlands. I didn’t hear him coming, so lost in birdsong and rumination was I, that when he announced “passing on the left!” I about jumped out of my skin. Another mile, another twenty minutes would pass before I would encounter another human being. In the meantime, the wetlands were abuzz with activity and birdsong and rumination.
And in the near distance began the melodic tintinnabulation of the bells of St. Brigid.