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Friday, November 9, 2012

Wind Walking…

The Valley after cornIf there’s one thing Gladys hates, it’s wind. Even in the slightest breeze she balks, has trouble tracking straight, does her best to come to a halt and leave me stranded. On the days a fall wind slices across the Valley, Gladys is best left behind in the garage. I’ve left her there today and am now on foot leaning into the gusts. I’ve switched my ball cap backwards so it won’t kite off my head and sail out into a berry or cornfield. A school bus heads my way and before it passes, I’m tempted to spin my hat bill forward so I won’t be mistaken for some truant high school kid though there’s hardly any danger of that happening.

As I try to keep my hat from parting company with my head, I’m reminded of Dickens’ novel The Pickwick Papers and a passage in which the narrator discusses the indignity of a gust of wind separating a man from his headgear:

There are very few moments in a man’s existence when he experiences so much ludicrous distress, or meets with so little charitable commiseration, as when he is in pursuit of his own hat. A vast deal of coolness, and a peculiar degree of judgment are requisite in catching a hat. A man must not be too precipitate, or he runs over it; he must not rush into the opposite extreme, or he loses it altogether. The best way is, to keep gently up with the object of pursuit, be wary and cautious, to watch your opportunity well, get gradually before it, then make a rapid dive, seize it by the crown, and stick it firmly on your head: smiling pleasantly all the time, as if you thought it as good a joke as anybody else.

Certainly a man playing tag with a windblown hat—or a windblown anything for that matter—is cause for great hilarity to anyone looking on.

My age demographic is of special interest to the healthcare industry. At least once a month our healthcare group mails a pamphlet containing tips on things to do to keep one healthy and wise (note: I’ve omitted  “wealthy” from the familiar phrase; “wealthy” pertains only to the healthcare industry, not those requiring its service—especially once the service has been rendered). One of these glossies arrived just the other day encouraging those of my “demographic” to keep the ol’ body in motion—“exercise,” I believe  is what they called it. While touting exercise as beneficial to one’s physical health, our provider suggested a departure from the “fitness club” routine, the indoor churning away on a treadmill, inhaling the fumes of perspiration from the treaders to the left and right, a goulash of others'  bodily exhausts fouling the nostrils. The title of the piece, “Cold Weather Workouts,” proclaims: “Your body likes a change of pace; you have to increase your exercise pace to stay warm outside in cold weather; your mind could use some fun.” Take it outdoors,  the pamphlet suggests,  the fall winds may howl, the rains may pour in earnest, the chilly air pinch the nostrils…. Outdoor exposure not only offers a new view, a changing landscape to stimulate the senses (so different from the grip bars of an exercise torture machine… ): the sounds, smells, sights the Valley offers…the tread of feet on pavement and gravel.

So here I am, leaning into the Valley breeze (it’s exercise enough just to keep my hat on my head). Neal Peart in his memoir Ghost Rider recalled a moment from his youth when his mother, tired of her kids being underfoot, told him: “Son, go outside and blow some of the stink off you!” This day of wind I’m trying to do the same thing; however, sharing the Valley as I do with dairy cows, there’s the chance I might fail in this attempt, substitute one form of stink for another. But the Valley gulls are aloft, spinning in the currents, mewling with contentment, adrift on the wind. Grasses and trees bend in the wind. My footsteps patter the pavement, crunch the gravel. No grunting or groaning of flesh and muscle to my right, no clatter, clank or whirr of machinery to the left. I’m on my own in the Valley. I hear only what the wind wants me to hear. No walls hem me in, only Valley fields. No ceiling, just the clouds scudding overhead, both of us bound in fealty to the wind. Wind walking….

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