Crossing Paths on Morning Walks

The alarm goes off at 5am. We leave the house at 6 and we’re on the trail by 6:30ish. Every morning as I stumble out of bed, pushing past sore muscles and rubbing sleepy eyes awake,  I remind myself how lucky I am to live minutes away from beauty.

Hiking in the mountains in the early morning many days a week is my new-found  superpower. Aching hips and muscle twinges aside, hiking regularly makes me feel strong in body and soul and helps me put things in perspective.

Because we walk the same section of the same trail many days of the week, I guess that makes us “regulars,” and we’re finding that there are other “regulars” out there too.

There’s The Early Guy Who Runs With His Dog. We always see him at the start of the hike. He hooks his pup to a leash and steps off the trail when he sees us coming. I always wait for his cheerful: “Have a good hike!” 

We’re always on the lookout for Mr. Orange Running Shoes because he’s a stealth-runner who manages to sneak up behind us without fail. One minute we take a peek and the trail is empty. The next second we check and he materializes. All we have time for is a quick wave.

We smiled when we first met the Turkey Lady who told us that she heard wild turkeys a little bit up the trail.  The second time she told us, we nodded skeptically. The third time, we dismissed her sighting outright until that day when a mother turkey and her flock of chirping chicks crossed the path right in front of us. The Turkey Lady reminds me that there is always a little unexpected magic out on the trail.

Then there’s Gary and Sue. They have a fleeting presence on the trail, coming and going with no particular rhythm. When we see them, it’s a treat.

David. Dressed in blue shorts-blue shirt-blue shoes. He’s a slow-and-steady runner who is now a steady presence in our lives.  David is there every day and probably even on the days that we are not. He started it all off with an uplifting ‘hello’ and when there were about fifty hellos hanging out there between us,  David introduced himself. I look for David like I look for my trail markers; a comforting and reassuring presence.

Early Guy Who Runs With His Dog. Mr. Orange Running Shoes. Turkey Lady. Gary and Sue and David. You are ‘our regulars’;  our neighbors on the trail. You give us predictability and a little friendship right now when the ground beneath us feels a bit shaky.  Our intertwined footsteps mark the trail.

These days, aren’t we all cobbled together into unexpected communities? Together, we’ll find the path forward.

Abraham Lincoln

Dear Pamela,

I found this cool, small company called Litographs based in Boston. I was impressed that besides printing very unique shirts, etc. with words, they also encourage reading and donate books to communities. In addition, when I ordered the shirts, they were donating all of their proceeds for two days to Black Lives Matter.

So, at the very beginning of June, I ordered a Lincoln t-shirt for myself—for my birthday—and one for you—who I will name as my “Lincoln buddy.” The words printed on the shirt are President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.

We have talked about our respect for this simple man, a leader who displayed so many honorable attributes. There is so much going on now with Black Lives Matter and part of the process is figuring out who in history was working hard enough for equal rights for people of color. After a lot of thought, I think Abraham Lincoln is a figure who moved us in the direction toward the equality we are still working so hard to attain. In my mind, Lincoln would have been the first to say that he was an imperfect human being. I’d like to think that if his life had not been cut short, he would have continued to learn from others to remedy those imperfections.

Anyway, I ordered the shirts in size Large because they said they run small. After two weeks, they arrived. Too small!! So I sent them back and reordered XL. I received them on Friday: one was beautiful and one had a printing fault. I contacted Litographs right away and received a beautiful apology from the CEO with the promise that a new shirt would be on its way in a week. Wow, that’s customer service!

I decided not to wait to give you your shirt. Originally, you shirt was going to be purple and mine was going to be blue—but now we’re swapped. They are both beautiful so it doesn’t matter. I hope you enjoy yours.

Love,

Judy

Play-Doh

Dear Pamela

When you told me the other day that you had stashed small give-away containers of Play-Doh in your Little Neighborhood Free Library, I knew that all would eventually be right with the world. I know this because Play-Doh, that malleable blob of vibrant color from my childhood, always gave me permission to empty my mind and make something surprisingly uncomplicated, personal and creative.

I wonder…

Do the recipients of your gift emit a cry of victory when finally prying off the snug-fitting lid? Does the Doh still bounce slightly when it falls from container to the table top? Does that first whiff assault your senses and sear a memory in your mind forever? Does absent-minded pushing and pressing without a plan suddenly reveal an unforetold creation?

As a child, I loved Play-Doh because I didn’t need to have a plan. Something would always emerge if I let it. In a young life full of rules and expectations, that made a difference. Unconsciously, I would empty my mind when I emptied the Play Doh container. My mind on Play-Doh went blank like I was gazing out of a car window on an endless family drive. With a one-handed squish, I knew, with total certainty that my ideas would emerge.

It’s no surprise that Play-Doh (or an occasional homemade imposter) became a fixture in my home when my own kids were young. Squeals of delight filled the room when, as a teacher, I doled out canisters of Play-Doh; an invitation to wipe the slate clean and stop planning and thinking if only for a moment during a demanding school day.

And now, dear Pamela, knowing that you fill your community library with little canisters of Play-Doh, I experience pure joy. What could be better during a pandemic and a time of national reckoning? Right now, kids and adults alike need permission to clear their minds, wipe the slate clean and create something beautiful and new. Play-Doh could help.

Love, Judy