Walking. With Truckers, Parakeets & Puppies.

375 consecutive days. Like in a Row. Cove Island Morning Walk.  The commitment to stop this obsession on the 366th day, came and went. Rachel Cusk: ‘…this balking of my will.’ This pull of something Larger.

10:00 a.m. yesterday. Cablevision contractor (full mask the entire time because it’s the right thing to do) takes his wire cutters, and with a quick turn of his wrist, strips the white pvc wrapper from the copper wire. I couldn’t do that without slashing my index finger. Wish I could do Something with these hands. Need to watch Dick Proenneke’s Youtube documentary on building a log cabin in the Alaskan Wilderness. That’s right. Get off-grid and build something. 

4:35 a.m.  Newspaper ‘Man’ (not Boy, not on a 2-wheeler but an early model Nissan) flicks his wrist and the NY Times  sails in slow motion, its blue wrapper flapping in the air, and hits the driveway with a thud. I’d like to do this, just one morning…Fling papers on driveways, watch them skid on dewy front yards, or slow the car to wind it way back and slam it against the garage door…

4:45 a.m. I turn onto the I-95 entrance ramp. Truckers. So many Trucks.  So many red tail lights.  Not one time in the last 60-75 days, as I enter the merging lane, have these monster trucks not moved into the center lane to let me enter. Not.One.Time. Driving all night and still have the decency and courtesy of swinging their big rigs into the center lane to let me in. Not one Time. That’s Professional. 

I’m across from this giant tandem semi, which wobbles over into my lane and then straightens out. Must have reached over to give his puppy a snack.  Wheels. Life on the Road. “It can get lonely on the road60% of truckers are pet owners, 40% of them taking their pets on the road with them…Sarah Giles, 27, drives for All Freight Carriers and carries a pair of dogs — and…a green-cheeked conure parakeet. ‘They’re about a foot long, as smart as a 4-year-old and very affectionate,’ she said. ‘Bonnie wants to be on me all the time, insists on everything her way, and doesn’t like strangers near the truck.’”

Sarah has a pair (!) of dogs and parakeet!  I look ahead. Of the 10 truckers in front of me, 4 have buddies riding along.  My passenger seat is dark, empty, and Sad. No friends. That’s Sad.

5:39 a.m. I make my way up to the point at Cove Island Park.

Walking by myself.

No puppy.

But damn, what a view…


Photo: DK @ Daybreak. 5:24 to 5:39 am, May 15, 2021. 46° F. Cove Island Park, Stamford, CT.

 

Walking. Not. And Ranting.

Where does one start?

Let’s start with 327 consecutive days. Like in a row. Formerly described as the morning walk @ daybreak to Cove Island Park.

It’s time to inject some integrity into this getting-long-in-the-tooth story. This morning walk has degenerated into a morning drive to the Park. There I am this morning, sitting in the car in front of the gate at the park, heater blowing, warming my feet — I can’t, I just can’t open the door and get out. So, rather than getting out, I leave and drive to the next site on DK’s Marvelous Adventure in search of the sunrise from a location where I can roll down the window and not get my sorry a** out of the car. Wow, DK. You’re so awesome.

Or we can commiserate over the free fall in weight gain, or better stated, the pile up of 8 lbs in 30 days. Root cause? If one would take inventory of the snacking between calls and meetings, you would say: “It’s just not possible.” And I’m here to tell you, if you put your mind to it, an addict can accomplish anything.

We’ve pivoted to Welch’s Mixed Fruit Snacks. The Honeycrisp apples sit on the wicker tray on the island in the kitchen. The plump, juicy, seedless red grapes rest in the bowl in the fridge. Next to the grapes, fresh cut cantaloupe in the tupperware dish. And the horse with its blinders can’t see any of it. With the heartbeat elevated, a few feet away from The Fix, a giant Costco size box of Fruit Snacks. I grab two handfuls and run back to my office to jump on another call. My hands trembling, saliva building up in anticipation… I rip open the package and drain its contents. Pause for a second. And then bite down to let the saliva-sugar-corn syrup puree coat my tongue, throat and then slide down to the tummy. Oh, the few seconds of relief…with the sugar fix in, the momentary silence… all intoxicating. I get after another package. And repeat. And repeat. And repeat. You see where this is going.

Or we can chat about yesterday’s bi-annual physical with my G.P.

[Read more…]

Walking. With Breath-Cloud.

6:00 am.

I’m layered up. From bottom and working up: Wool socks. (2 pair). Long johns. Sweat pants. Snow pants. T-shirt. Long sleeved turtle neck. North Face hoodie. North Face jacket. Tuk, pulled down firmly over the ears. Fur-lined Sorel Boots. Gloves.

And the gear. Air pods. iPhone. Car Keys. Camera bag. Camera(s). Len(s). Memory card. Extra battery. Monopod. Wallet. And a Sling to hold it all.

This ensemble, embarrassing really, for a Canadian, who went to school in Northern Michigan. Man-up has an entirely new convention at middle-age — this not being a trek to the top of the Himalayas.

18° F this morning, wind gusts up to 20 mph. Feels like? 8° F.  Pretty Damn Cold.

I step out of the car at Cove Island Park, and a wind gust delivers its wake-up call. Eyes water. 228 consecutive days on this morning walk. But this one feels like a test. Body doesn’t want any part of this…

“Hey Siri. What time does the sun rise today?” Siri (perky): “Good Morning David. The Sun will rise at 7:14 am today.” She remembered my name! (Blush)

45 minutes until Sunrise. 45 minutes. Wow.

I walk.

Not a single soul out. I tromp out with my snow boots on the uncleared path, taking firm, deliberate, heavy steps, careful not to hit black ice.

Triple layers. All the gear. Anxiety over taking a tumble head first, and the ever-present risk of camera flying into a snow bank. God, I’m tired, and I couldn’t have walked 1/2 mile. [Read more…]

Walking. With MJF.

Monday morning, 5 a.m. The night before, wind gusts up to 60 mph, heavy rain, and a tornado set down a few miles away. Trees down. Thousands without power in Fairfield County. The Kanigan house?  Silent. The lights burn, the furnace hums, Susan and Eric sleep. All is well.

I walk.

Cove Island Park.  There’s no evidence of havoc on the beach. It is swept clean. No drift wood. No trash. No humans. The sand is firm underfoot. I leave faint shoe marks. I don’t look back.

I never look back. 

It’s likely why the title of his book, No Time Like the Future, caught my attention. Michael J. Fox‘s new memoir, is pumping through my earbuds.

29 years old: Parkinson’s.

58 years old: Spinal cord surgery (unrelated to Parkinson’s) followed by long term rehab.

“I got grim,” he said in an interview in 2019. No shit.

I’m Canadian, like MJF, without the famous part.  He was born 5 months earlier, and yet handed a deck of cards that I’m not sure I could ever play.

He’s written 3 other memoirs titled “Lucky Man“, “Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist” and “A Funny Thing Happens on the Way to the Future.” You get the picture. It’s almost as if he was built to take the blows.

He’s narrating this new book.

Shame, that’s what I feel, as I have to slow down the narration speed on Audible to catch each word. Most with Parkinson’s speak slowly, but not MJF. He speaks rapidly, with certain words trailing off at the end of certain sentences. Actor. Married, 30 years. Father. Prolific fundraiser for Parkinson’s. Writer. Narrator of his own books. Super Man.

I walk, and I listen. [Read more…]

I’m only now starting to fully understand is that this is an inside job. It only works if I believe.

But what I’m only now starting to fully understand is that this is an inside job. It only works if I believe. I’ve always been confident, positive, doggedly determined; but doubt is beginning to mitigate my conviction. Who am I to think I can accomplish this, when so many have struggled with similar setbacks; some with Parkinson’s, some with the aftermath of spinal surgery? I may be the only one who has taken on this particular two-headed beast…

I have to learn to walk again; to reclaim my mobility, remaster my motion. I consider this fundamental to my therapy —  for me, it all starts and ends with walking. And I understand that it’s more complicated than that. So many tiny disciplines have to be observed, and neglected muscles and ligaments need to be restored. I’m exhausted by the effort I’ve already put in at Johns Hopkins, and daunted by how much work I still have to do. It’s like being nibbled to death by ducks.

Back in the days of carefree ambling, I would have considered the topic of walking to be rather pedestrian. Now the acts of stepping, strolling, hiking, and perambulating have become an obsession. I watch Esmé gliding through the kitchen, grabbing an apple while opening the fridge door for a coconut water, closing it with a quick shift of her hip and pirouetting out the swinging door at the other end of the room. Down in the lobby, my neighbor and her daughter are quickstepping to catch a taxi. I spy on a man walking with a slight limp, which he counterbalances with a bag of groceries. I secretly watch the way they all move. Easy, breezy, catlike, or with a limp, every one of them is far better at it than me. It may be that the most difficult, miraculous thing we do, physically, is to walk…

It’s tough. With PD and the aftermath of the surgery, something as simple as remaining upright is often sabotaged by a rogue army of misfiring neurons. I try to stay organized. I have memorized a litany of admonitions, not unlike my golfer’s list of swing thoughts: Keep my head centered over my hips; hips over my knees; no hyperextending; stay in line with my feet; eyes forward; shoulders back; chest out; lead with the pelvis. All of this kinetic vigilance can dissolve in a nanosecond of panic, or come apart with some other distraction. A tiny nervous jolt or spasm, and like a house of cards in a sudden gust of wind, the only messages that make it through the debris are: Don’t fall. Don’t fall. Don’t fall

—  Michael J. Fox, No Time Like the Future: An Optimist Considers Mortality (Flatiron Books, November 17, 2020)

Saturday Morning

I like to sit quietly. When I watch a movie I don’t like to discuss it with anyone. No talking. Occasionally I watch the same movie over and over again. I prefer watching movies alone. I prefer reading alone. I prefer walking alone. Alone I go along very well. I’m looking for nobody, and I hope nobody is looking for me.

— Ellen Kennedy, from “today I bought a small pink flower” in “yesterday I was talking to myself


Photo: DK, Daybreak. October 31, 2020. 7:30 – 7:50 am. 33° F, feels like 26 ° F. Cove Island Park, Stamford CT

Walking. Swallowed up by Stegner…

172 mornings.

Today, 5:50 a.m., that’s 173.

Home to Cove Island Park, and back. Five mile loop.

Wallace Stegner (via Audible) has been keeping me company. The Spectactor Bird. Angle of Repose. Crossing to Safety. Remembering Laughter. All the Little Live Things.

And now, Stegner’s Recapitulation.

“Remembered habit created remembered reality. His needle ran in a groove.” (WS-R)

173 consecutive mornings. ~1,700,000 steps. I’d say that’s a groove.

As my feet pat the shoulder of the road, helicopters come whirling down from the red maples, illuminated against the street lamps. My mind lets go of the narration, I stop, and I watch, in silence. A warm gust of wind sends another troop of helicopters whirring down on me. Raining helicopters!

“That intense obsessed involvement, and then absence, silence.” (WS-R)

And then back to Stegner…and Recapitulation.

“Listen to those cottonwoods talking..Doesn’t that sound tell you, as much as any single signal in your life, who you are? Doesn’t it smell of sage and rabbit brush and shad scale? Doesn’t it have the feel of wet red ditch-bank sand in it, and the stir of a thunderstorm coming up over one of the little Mormon towns down in the plateaus? Just now, for a half second, it drowned me in associations and sensations. It brought back whole two people I used to love. When cottonwoods have been rattling at you all through your childhood, they mean home. I could have spent fifty years listening to the shamal thresh the palms in the date gardens of Hofuf, and never felt anything but out of place. But one puff of wind through those trees in the gully is enough to tell me, not that I have come home, but that I never left. Having let it surge through his head like the wind through the branches, he takes it back.” (WS-R)

And then, the aha moment.

My mind swimming in Stegner’s words for weeks.

Why so uninspired to write DK?

Try to follow behind that!

Forgettaboutit.


Notes:

  • WS-R = Wallace Stegner, Recapitulation (Penguin Books, November 1, 1997)
  • Photo: DK, Weed Ave, Stamford, CT. October 24, 2020. 6:26 am. 61° F.  Wind gusts: up to 13 mph.

Walking. With the Spirit Flock.

It was Tuesday.

Another morning walk. 140 days, 140 consecutive days in a row.

My 5 mile loop to start each day. Same time. Same path.

I’m crawling out of bed a bit slower now, and wondering, “Maybe I take today off?” Days are getting shorter. Mornings darker. The sheen of watching daybreak, the first light illuminating the horizon, do I dare say, is becoming boring?

But we keep it going. If nothing else, it gives me something to boast about. Work that fragile ego. 

And Tuesday morning was setting up to be a replay of so many other mornings. Few surprises. My Swan sleeping alone at the edge of the cove. My Spirit Bird, the cormorant, fishing solo. That’s a photo I took of her —  her elegant curved neck, the matte black finish of her back, her gulping a breath before diving again.

I keep walking.

My camera goes back in the bag, and doesn’t leave the bag. Been here. Done that. Seen it before. Not worth the energy to pull it out of the sling.

I reach the Park and I approach the break wall. I’m looking out on Long Island Sound.  It’s quiet this morning. Few walkers. Calm. No wind.

I re-grip my camera bag to hoist myself up on the break wall and at that moment a flock of ~20 Canada Geese lift off the water, and surge low over my head. Those in the back honking to encourage those up front to keep up their speed.  It was one of those moments — the beat of 40 wings, the urgency of their calls.  I’ll knew that I’d remember this. Write about this.

I keep walking.

I’m thinking about why that moment was a moment. I was startled…a break of the silence. An interruption of the thoughts banging around in my head.  A piercing of the quiet, almost to say: Awaken Man. Look around you.

I keep walking.

I see another Cormorant feeding.  2 Spirit Birds in one Day. Now that’s Something. I take my camera out of my bag and snap a few shots.

I keep walking.

I notice another flock across the pond, but its not Geese. Smaller, darker, flying lower, wings flapping with greater urgency.

I stop to watch.

I swing my sling around to grab the zoom lens. Heart beating.  Come on Dave. Come on.

It was another Moment.

They were too far out even with the zoom.

I turned to walk back to the Park to see if I could get a better shot.

Hand shake. No time for tripod. No time to adjust camera settings. Blurry! It will be blurry!

25? 50? More?

[Read more…]

Saturday Morning


Daybreak. August 22, 2020. 5:20 to 5:35 am. 72° F. Humidity 84%. Wind: 7 mph. Gusts: 13 mph. Cloud Cover: 95%. The Cove, Stamford, CT

Saturday Morning


Photo: DK, July 14, 2020, 4:54 am. The Cove, Stamford, CT. Quote from Your Eyes Blaze Out.

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