Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Old Man Walking

Man Walking
by Paul Gavarni
I have always loved walking. Some people call it hiking. I guess it depends on the location, whether you call it a hike or a walk in the park. I grew up in the country – two barns, ponies, dogs, etc. – and there was rarely a day after school when I didn’t take a walk in the woods. On the map the area is called the Great Cedar Swamp and was once part of the great Wampanoag Nation. I walked with the ghosts of Indians, the original people, who walked those same paths. I never felt lonely in the woods. I felt part of the spirit that moves in all things. I do not feel that same connection when I walk among the tall concrete and glass buildings in the city.

I have lived in Seattle for over twenty years and it has always felt like a nice compromise. It’s a city with quaint neighborhoods, tree-lined streets and the occasional bald eagle soaring overhead, but the face of the city is changing. Every so often I see a tree in the neighborhood marked for destruction. They post a notice, so those opposed to the removal of the tree can fight city hall if they so desire, but they will be laughed right out of court. Damn tree huggers! The powers-that-be have no qualms removing a tree that has graced the neighborhood for a few hundred years, providing housing for a variety of creatures, from lowly insects to majestic eagles. They remove them because they are buckling the sidewalk, or blocking some homeowner’s view. I guess only the Lorax speaks for the trees.

Lately my walks have been filled with the colors of spring, as a variety of flowers are now in bloom. I remind myself that colors are electromagnetic waves of various lengths, entering my eyes and being interpreted by my old man brain as glorious signs of spring. Spring, when a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love and an old man’s thoughts turn to his past. I am only old in comparison to those younger than myself and in another week I’ll add another digit to my age, making me fifty-six. There are days when I feel like I’m twenty-six and then there are days when I feel the weight of that first handful of dirt tossed upon my casket. I must count the dark days among the sunny ones to make a whole life.

I was at work last week, when a customer asked me about my weight loss. “How did you do it? Was it intentional?” My ex-wife asked me recently if she needed to worry about my health due to my weight loss. My weight loss was not intentional, but my walking always is. I used to disdain umbrellas like most true Seattleites, but in order to walk every day, sometimes I need take cover under a University Village complementary umbrella. It’s big, it’s yellow and it keeps me dry, so that I can be of service to the bookstore customers without raining on their parade. Nobody likes a wet bookseller or a wet book cellar.

Walking is my way of progressing down my path. I can feel the sun warm my face when I’m outside. I can feel the breeze as the weather turns, and the rains move in. I walk through the aisles of the bookstore, where I work, shelving books and helping the odd customer along the way. There’s always that one odd customer. My legs move me through the world and give me a more realistic view of my surroundings. Sometimes I stumble, but I pick myself back up, dust myself off and amble on down the road, towards the next adventure. Will I choose the path less traveled or will I take the path of least resistance?

1 comment:

Dana Gaskin Wenig said...

Agh! I love this piece! And darn you, I'm inspired to walk more. ;) Thanks again for writing and sharing.