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.

You missed that…

You missed that. Right now, you are missing the vast majority of what is happening around you. You are missing the events unfolding in your body, in the distance, and right in front of you. By marshaling your attention to these words, helpfully framed in a distinct border of white, you are ignoring an unthinkably large amount of information that continues to bombard all of your senses: the hum of the fluorescent lights, the ambient noise in a large room, the places your chair presses against your legs or back, your tongue touching the roof of your mouth, the tension you are holding in your shoulders or jaw, the map of the cool and warm places on your body, the constant hum of traffic or a distant lawn-mower, the blurred view of your own shoulders and torso in your peripheral vision, a chirp of a bug or whine of a kitchen appliance.

~ Alexandra Horowitz, On Looking: A Walker’s Guide to the Art of Observation (Scribner; April 15, 2014)


Notes – Quote: Thank you Beth @ Alive on All Channels. Photo: Woman with Long Hair, Man Ray 1929 (via Newthom)

Walking. In Twilight.

75 minutes before sunrise, I start out in darkness, and slide into Twilight.

90 consecutive days, same loop, 5 miles, Cove Island Park and back.

I had to Google it, because I didn’t know what it was called, the in-between time between night and sunrise.

Twilight: “the soft glowing light from the sky when the sun is below the horizon, caused by the refraction and scattering of the sun’s rays from the atmosphere.”

I have no clue what all that means —  and no interest in learning more.

I’m deep into Kate Zambreno’s new book: Drifts: A Novel. My kind of book. She describes it as “Prose, little things, I stammer out.” (I wish I could stammer, spit and cough out anything close to this.)

Her words: “A shock of color out of nowhere.” And that’s exactly what it was. Look at it. The photo above, taken @ 5:24 a.m. 24 minutes before sunrise. 24 minutes before sunrise. Where does this light, this ‘shock of color’ come from?

In a different time, a different scene, she goes on to talk about “the light of Vermeer’s paintings. Their silence and mystery…So often the painting seems to be of the same room, at the same picture window… whether the sun floods in directly or diffusely.”

And so here we are. 90 consecutive days on this same walk. The same room, the same picture window, a new Vermeer each morning.

I tuck my camera into my bag, and head home. I twist in my earbuds and listen to Audible pumping in the narration.  She closes out her book on an Albrecht Durer quote, back in the 1500’s (before the internet, before digital cameras):

What beauty is, I know not, though it adheres to many things.”

And so it does Albrecht, so it does.


Notes:

  • Photo: 5:20 a.m. The Cove, Stamford, CT. July 30, 2020.
  • Inspired by: “The universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.” ~ Eden Phillpotts, from “A Shadow Passes
  • Book Review of Kate Zambreno’s book “Drifts: A Novel”: “Locked in a Creative Struggle, With Rilke as Her Guide” by Catherine Lacey, NY Times.

Saturday Morning Walk

Where does it start? Muscles tense. One leg a pillar, holding the body upright between the earth and sky. The other a pendulum, swinging from behind. Heel touches down. The whole weight of the body rolls forward onto the ball of the foot. The big toe pushes off, and the delicately balanced weight of the body shifts again. The legs reverse position. It starts with a step and then another step and then another that add up like taps on a drum to a rhythm, the rhythm of walking. The most obvious and the most obscure thing in the world, this walking that wanders so readily into religion, philosophy, landscape, urban policy, anatomy, allegory, and heartbreak.

—  Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking (Penguin Books (June 1, 2001)


Photo: Bjorn Breimo, Walking (Norway)

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