Ben and I pace around the indoor track at the Y. On some days he prods me to go. Other days I prod him. We never get from Point A to Point B, but it’s good for us.
One mile for health.

A mother in East St. Louis, locks her kids in the apartment and plods past a liquor store on the corner, a gas station and McDonalds opposite, and a PayDay loan down the block. She heads for the supermarket nearest her redlined neighborhood, to buy what she can carry.
Five miles for food.

A man, woman, and boy flag down our car. “Will you take us to WalMart?” Ben answers, “There’s none around here.” Mother says, “It's in Liberty.” They climb in. I ask, “Walking? Where do you live?” Mother says, “City Union Mission. We don’t have a car. My sandals broke again and WalMart’s always the cheapest.”  
Twelve miles for shoes.

Siblings in Sudan flee from soldiers who killed their parents, burned their village, and kidnapped their brother. The second-oldest boy, now their chief, leads them across a desert. They drink urine and hide from lions, before stumbling into a Kenyan refugee camp.
1,000 miles for safety.

I poke my head into Ben’s office. “I’m going to bed. You?” He’s staring at the computer screen. “Be there in awhile.” “Okay, nighty-night.” I lean over in my jammies, to offer a kiss. He grins at me and closes his laptop. “Changed my mind. I’m coming now.
Zero miles for love.

Read other posts about walking:
How to Make Peace with Nature
Stations of the Cross
Morning Walk
Happy Buddha
 
 
After twenty years of service, our dining room table lay in pieces in the driveway.

My first husband bought it for our big corner house. Saturdays, he dusted all the furniture––caressing antique European curves with a 100% cotton cloth dabbed in lemon polish, while the stereo blasted Percy Sledge wailing about how a man loved a woman. We seldom ate at the table. I acquired it in the divorce.

My nephew Anthony, who lived with me after the break-up, slumped over notebooks strewn across the table. His ninth-grade teacher had ordered him to catch up on the year’s worth of assignments he’d ignored. I sat opposite, my crossed arms pressed against the unyielding wood. We faced off across no-man's-land, medium oak, oil finish.

The day Ben and I got married, we inserted both leaves, extended the table to its full length, and pushed it against the wall to make room for a house full of friends. They covered it with home cooked wedding treats. Ben and I were  prone to suppers in front of the television, intertwined on the couch, but when we dined at the table, he waltzed me around the living room for dessert.

He and I stacked the top, leaves, and legs in the driveway. The Sherwood Center sent their truck for it, and soon another family will transform my dismantled memories into a dining room table.

Read a couple of related posts.
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A graph plots one woman's emotions over a twenty-four-hour period, on the second Sunday in May.

Line 1, bitterness at being wished a happy Mother's Day, rises at the same rate as Line 2, regret at ending up childless. Note that Line 3, despair over the death of her mother, spikes when well-wishers add, "Even if you don't have kids, everybody's got a mom."




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I missed my walk today. My feet left the house, but I lingered inside my mind––paying the gas bill, shopping for new shoes, composing a grocery list. In my absence, maybe my feet admired the willow around the corner, relished the crunch of broken acorns and reassured the hound dogs that bayed a warning from behind their fence. My walk ended before I caught up. At the front door, I chastised myself for all that thinking and figuring and planning. I clutched the doorknob and the promise of greater attention tomorrow.

A cardinal whistled, reminding me that tomorrow . . . nothing needs to change. And everything will.
 
 
A crow's raucous cawing drew my attention to the treetops above a two-story house. I don't know if crows get mad, but this one sounded ticked. As the cawing grew more frantic, the bird took off, branches bouncing in its wake. That wingspan gave it away, even to a city girl like me: a hawk.

The noisy crow burst from the canopy to chase the trespasser. They swooped over the intersection where I stood gawking, and then over the rooftops, all the while the crow dive-bombing the hawk's wing tip, the hawk unable to maneuver out of reach, until both shrank to dots in the distance and the cacophony faded. In the meantime three other crows, in response to the distress signal, had rushed to the original invasion site above my head, and settled down to guard it. I scanned the sky to spot the lead raven as it returned over the rooftops. It glided in to join the other rescuers, but as soon as it landed, the foliage absorbed all four of them. When the skirmish ended, old tensions eased from my muscles.

Ten thousand things had been screaming for my attention. Immigrants drowned at sea, black boys murdered, dogs abused, young girls stolen en masse, families buried in volcano eruption. The news sickened me and gave me nightmares, but the sky delivered a
reminder. The ten thousand things are no more important than the crows who saved their nest today.
 
 
I sat at the computer, settling in to my writing routine, when a pop-up caught my attention.

Hemingwrite. Clever name. What’s that about? I clicked on an article about an invention for writers, which was being funded on Kickstarter. A word-processor sans internet browser, it looked like a flattened-out typewriter with a postcard-sized screen. What a godsend for me, because the internet distracts me. Never fails. It’s too tempting to peek at Facebook or email. This might be the solution. Just sit and type and it backs up the document to the cloud, and that’s good, because … well let me see how much it costs.

As I poised the cursor over the link to the Kickstarter campaign, a cartoon lightning bolt zapped my head. Here sits a woman distracted by an internet article about a device designed to prevent her from reading internet articles.

Sigh. Once again––figuring things out. Searching for answers to self-created problems. Poor little head.

It’s not my job to figure out how to avoid the internet. My job is to notice I’m distracted and then take note of how that feels. Pay attention.

Life works out. It always has. The details are above my pay grade.

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"You're sixty-four? Sure don't look it. You look great."

On hearing this again, I want to explain calmly why it's not a compliment, But calm eludes me.
I'm on fire to argue against slogans about growing old. Let others strive to be young at heart; let my heart be ageless. Youth is not wasted on the young; nothing is wasted on anyone. Defy my age? No, thanks. This woman's not looking for a fight. Or is she?

The cliche´s––as well as my antagonism––miss the mark. The stampede toward youthfulness bypasses a resting place that avails itself only to old souls.

I pause in my typing, trying to recall the word.

Memory fades in and out these days like reception on a cheap T.V. Experience teaches me to relax. The word will materialize in a minute or arrive tonight in a dream. My hands hover over the keyboard, the skin wrinkled and translucent. Thick blue veins course from wrist to knuckles. These hands rebut the pseudo-compliments about my appearance. They map a lifetime in ways my unlined face cannot. I hope to use them wisely from now until the end. Stroke the face of my loving husband. Dig holes in the garden for daffodil bulbs. Press into downward-facing-dog.

Such images cool my resentment and offer a senior's moment of respite. The missing word appears. The word is grace.

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This year I'm coming to terms with nature. Starting right now.

Nature means trees: ticks dropping out of them, spider webs stretched between them, and snakes curled up at their roots. I dislike these things. I walk every day, but choose sidewalks and treadmills, preferences no doubt borne from my suburban upbringing.

Easter morning, my husband and I hiked in Wallace State Park. He studied the map painted on a wooden placard and selected Rocky Ford Trail, labeled moderate. As directed, we crossed a dam and headed for the trail. Once across Ben veered right. I continued straight. "How the hell did you know to turn?"

He pointed to a spot a couple yards beyond where he'd stopped. Sure enough, a trail, but it petered out into the patch of weeds at my feet. My attempt to understand the natural world was doomed. Hopeless. Mother Nature had failed to provide me the gene that signals where to change direction in the absence of street signs.

The trail wound through oaks still naked from winter. Bone white sycamore skeletons reached skyward, as it ran parallel to a stream. We stopped where a waterfall trickled over a limestone shelf. Cardinals sang accompaniment to the gurgling creek. The music so delicate you had to hold you breath to take it in. It nourished even a room service kind of girl like me. Lesson one: listen.

Related post:
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I awoke reluctantly, weighed down by the burden of drawing breath. I was devoid of ambition. No unresolved problem spurred me into action. No unmet need beckoned. No impending disaster threatened. A single desire loomed like a specter in my just-waking fog: let me be done with it. This life is complete.

But the bruising pressure of the mattress against my spine grew louder than my ennui. I shuffled downstairs for aspirin to ease the nagging in my back and then returned to the bedroom, slipped back under the covers, and waited. The pain reliever's caffeine cleared the clouds from my imagination. My equilibrium creaked back to center; the blood, bones, and breath of this lifetime became as inviting as the void that stretched beyond them.

The Dawns––pre- and post-caffeine––they seem so real, as though I might be trapped inside one or the other. Their story lines run parallel, as relentless as railroad tracks, but they are false selves. Me, Myself, and I? We're only dandelion puffs born on the winds of eternity.

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I first encountered them when I was a child. My mother said, "They're good for you." That mix of slime and seeds and skin? It looked like ooze from the smashed corpse of a mutant cockroach. It would eat your guts out, leave you writhing in agony and foaming at the mouth. From that day forward I kept a safe distance from tomatoes.

But when I was fifty, I married a man who adored them fresh from the garden. So, wearing rubber gloves, I sliced them into pretty crescents for my honey-bunny.

At fifty-five, I realized my crimson nemesis was a necessary evil. It kicked up flavor in spaghetti sauce. I hacked a couple into chunks the size of meteors, which could easily be identified and left behind in the pot when I served myself.

At sixty, I diced them into pea-sized cubes and they swam incognito in my chili. If accidentally spooned up, the offender was gulped down my gullet, bypassing taste buds.

At sixty-four, I ordered vegetarian loaf at Eden Alley. It arrived crowned with a suspicious blood-red glop. Maybe I was mesmerized by the aromas of thyme, basil, and oregano, but I could no longer see the existential threat in those tomatoes. I scooped up a forkful along with mushrooms and spinach. An acidic tang mingled with the smokey flavor of portobellos on my tongue. My God! Surely the angels serve this dish in heaven.
After six decades, in instantaneous revelation, I transcended slime, seed, and skin. Today, tomatoes. Tomorrow, Everest.

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another transformation that happened when I least expected it