I hear the rhythmic crunching of my footsteps on the caliche road, the soft padding of Charly and Max beside me, their panting and my breathing, the wind whispering in my ear.
I'm walking later than normal this morning - with the temperature hitting the 90's early in the day (before peaking in the 100's), I've been trying to go while it's still relatively cool. But it's not too bad, yet. There's not a cloud in the sky, but there's a pretty good breeze, and still plenty of shade. I hear the backhoes already at work up on the hill near the curve.
Yesterday I went early. It was a soft morning - soft white clouds sponged onto the blue canvas above me - soft sunshine from the east taking turns with the shade of the hill across my path - a soft wind, soft warmth. Birdcalls and insect hums sounded muted. Lazy.
Charly and I started these walks years ago. On mornings I was late - either I forgot or had gotten too busy - he would peek in through the French doors, tail wagging, eyes full of optimism and hope. How could I resist? He was the perfect exercise buddy. Max joined right in to our routine.
Now I look forward to our walks as much as they do, although I still call it "walking the dogs" as if it was a chore. It's a time for rejuvenation, clearing my mind, sorting my thoughts, and preparing for the day, more than exercise.
My thoughts run free, but behind them, in the background of my mind, I'm reciting a Rosary, counting off the decades with my fingers. It's a chance for reflective prayer - to ask for God's help for myself, my friends, my family, and to give thanks. I have many things to be grateful for, not the least being that I am physically able to walk; I still have use of my legs and my lungs. I think of my brother Buster, a quadriplegic the last years of his life. For a little while, I'm taken away from myself, humbled.
One morning a sky full of storm clouds mirrored my mood. But while I watched, a brisk wind swept them from the sky in a gray line, revealing the blue sky, bright with sunshine, waiting just behind. At that moment, I felt the clouds within me lose their grip, swept away with the storm. Even now, on days when I'm once again filled with storm clouds, I remember that morning, remember that the sunshine is waiting and the storms will pass.
I walk to still myself - to have a few moments of peace. To slow down before the race of the day begins in earnest. Watching the dogs, seeing their pure delight, I open my eyes to the beauty around me. A falcon lives nearby, some mornings screeching and flying from one telephone pole to the next in annoyance at our presence. On wet mornings, spider webs glisten, stretched across the grasses bordering the road. In the spring, there are flowers, and in the winter, frost. Always beauty.
My walk ends - back to seeing how many things I can scratch off of my "to-do" lists cluttering the kitchen counter. But at least for a little while today, I was still.