I don’t mind walking when it rains as long as it’s not torrential. The other day in a soft rain, protected only by my hooded jacket, I decided to walk along the river to the farmers market on the green. My desire was to vegetate at home doing a lot of nothing on the couch, but I forced myself to go out.
After following the river past the condos where the ducks hang out waiting for stale bread to be tossed from balconies, I dashed across the street to the secret path that climbs up behind the church in front of which, the market is held on Saturdays. The path opens out onto the parking lot next to the place where Molly spent a year in daycare. Most of the time when I pass this way, long-ago memories don’t register but this day I remember a time that Neil never picked Molly up so I was called at work to rush over and get her. In the early winter darkness, her teachers stood next to their cars right here, waiting with little Molly. They were kinder than I might have been at the inconvenience.
Another time I remember joining the parade of toddlers crossing this lot to the senior home to trick or treat and sing a song. Molly as a princess, wore a favorite blond wig of curls over her still barely-grown, short brown hair and a too-long Disney dress, now dirty at the hem. Perhaps because there were no grandparents in her life, the sight of all the old folks in wheelchairs, some with obvious dementia, completely freaked her out and she looked up towards me as if to rescue her from where she sat on the floor with the little group of costumed toddlers. Her face was crumpled in tears. Always an empathetic soul, maybe the scene felt too sad, as it did for me. The sweet babies in the middle of all these decades of life was a stark snapshot, the extreme passage of time, too much.
The path I walked isn’t really secret, it just feels that way because I never see anyone else. It’s a short stretch of tarmac leading up an incline along a stone wall. Exiting out of the path into the side street leading to the church, I saw the street was empty – the farmer’s market was not there either because of the rain or the season being over. All I’d needed was a few eggplants. Plan B meant walking out to the noisy street to the much busier nearby store. I mostly avoid this street on my walks as it requires crossing 4 lanes in front of determined and often distracted drivers who largely ignore the flashing yellow light I activate by pressing a button. I step out cautiously, trying to make eye contact with the driver to determine they’ll be slowing to a stop or at least to a miss-hitting-me speed.
This is my neighborhood where usually, I too am a driver. But I walk a lot even without a dog. Sometimes with friends. Our gabbing makes the time fly by and I don’t even glance at my phone to see how many steps I’ve wracked up. I try for the max. I almost never make it to 10,000 steps when I’m alone and am satisfied if I get in 2 miles. I don’t listen to music or podcasts because I mostly like to hear the sounds of the world around me and don’t like the feel of having earplugs in.
If I don’t get too distracted by all the memories my neighborhood evokes, my solitary walks are meditative. I try to concentrate on my breath and if I’m walking around the track (very conveniently located right next to my house) sometimes I’ll close my eyes as I go round and round the gravel circle. I practice booting out annoying thoughts that pop-up like a merry-go-round. I’m rarely inclined to walk on the track, the endless circling less appealing than exploring the world outside of me, but after a few rounds with a periodic glance at the changing sunset sky, I discover that the round and round can lead to an interior quiet that is very sweet. Even in the rain.