Joanna Tebbs Young
CIRCLES OF COMMUNITY
I can’t speak for other parents whose kids are in day camps, but I will tell you for me, as a work-from-homer, this driving the kids back and forth every day does a number on the so-called schedule. Any kind of daily structure developed one week goes out the window the next, depending on the timing and location of the camp. And then they have a week with nothing scheduled and want to be taken swimming or to get new skateboard knee pads or a new video game.
Needless to say, fitting in the writing of this column has been a challenge this summer. I am writing this past deadline (sorry, K!) as fast as my little fingers will allow. And only an hour ago I didn’t even know what I was going to write about. So, as I was on my morning walk, I requested my subconscious to use this opportunity to come up with something to muse about. Even before I had completed that thought, my subconscious answered: Write about your morning walks. Immediately, the sentences started writing themselves in my head, and I was wishing I had thought to bring my laptop along with me. Thankfully, I have a speech-to-text app on my phone, and so I made some “notes” as I was walking.
A few months ago, I was reading the editor’s message in a magazine I subscribe to called, blandly, “Creative Nonfiction.” (Fortunately, the title belies its contents of well-written, interesting essays.) The editor, Lee Gutkind, was discussing his daily writing routine. Early every morning, far earlier than I’d be willing to leave my bed, he walks to his local Starbucks in Pittsburgh. He then goes home to write for a few hours while nursing his Cappafoamyskinnlattesomething. As it was nearing the kids’ summer vacation, which every year initiates an internal conversation about how I will balance work, home, and kids for two months, this sounded like a great idea. Get going early and get some writing in before the kids even wake up.
Around the same time, I saw that Come Alive Outside was preparing for the annual 100 Days, 100 Miles Challenge. I had wanted to do this anyway, and now I had figured out a way to easily fit it into my day. I planned a two-mile route that included Speakeasy Café, my great love — need — of coffee serving as the ultimate morning motivator, and on the very first day of summer vacation, I began my new routine, which I am proud to say I have kept to (the writing once home, not so much).
My (almost) daily walk begins with a hike up a thankfully short, but steep hill that, with thighs complaining, I still have to convince myself every time I just LOVE. But I am rewarded when almost at the top, as I pass the beautiful flower garden there, cone flowers now in full array. Then my route flattens out and, as I pass stately hilltop houses, some in disrepair, some lovingly maintained and surrounded by flowers, I slowly regain a regular breath, knowing that the slightly heavy pumping of my heart is doing my body good.
Then comes Jones Donuts. That luscious smell of warm, sweet dough tempts me every time, but on I go. I cross over to the walking path around the park, which, green, well-kept and dotted with interesting sculptures, is an asset to this city. While people jog past with dogs in tow and cars flow by, their occupants on the way to work or taking their kids to camp, I gratefully look up at the mountains, which on any given day are bathed in either sunlight, clouds, or misty drizzle — sometimes all three at once.
Unfortunately, the scenery periodically includes the not-so-welcome sight, sound, and smell of a coal-rollin’ truck roaring past. On these occasions, my blood pressure goes up along with the lung-choking, air-polluting fumes billowing from those over-sized (over-compensating?) tailpipes from hell. OK, deep breath (after the black cloud has dissipated, that is) and on down closer and closer to caffeine…
Another gorgeous view, this time of the mountains to the west, and a reminder that we live in a bowl, a luscious, every-changing green bowl. And within that bowl lies a town, full of life and potential. The old buildings are alive with character and history (every time I walk I am reminded of all the historical research I’d still like to pursue) and the businesses and restaurants are the very heart of a city that I have grown to love dearly.
Finally, coffee in hand, sun and warm breeze in my face, I circle back towards home. What better way to start the day?!
If you haven’t walked around Rutland (or wherever you live) in the early morning, I highly recommend it. It is a way to see the city from a new, intimate angle. You’ll notice things you miss when in the car: colorful beds of flowers (thanks to Rutland Blooms), historical markers and statue engravings which you can actually stop and read, whimsical architectural details on a turn-of-the-century house, and the way the giant flower baskets hanging on the light posts drip after they’ve been watered each morning. You can also say good morning to fellow ambulators and coffee shop regulars. Best yet, you can get inspired with an idea for your column that with every word typed is getting further and further from deadline…