Walking. Like who’s watching who?

The nocturnals. Or the insomniacs. Or both.

There’s a handful of us that walk Cove Island Park in twilight, before daybreak.

There’s the lady with the Lime Green winter coat. Knee length. Fur lined hood, always up. Most noticeable, besides the strobe-like-pulsing, lime green coat, is that you can see her across the entire length of the park. Her arms stiff and straight, swing up and high, then sharply down, and repeat. I watch her. I find it all hypnotic. Like a giant tropical parrot, with her wings clipped, trying to get airborne. She read somewhere that if you ball your fingers into a fist and slash your arms way up and sharply down, you will lose many more calories then if you walked like a normal human. She passes me, never makes eye contact.  I wouldn’t make eye contact either walking like that.

I walk.

I note that I hold my arms tight to my sides, then wonder if others look at me. “Look at him. Poor thing. He must have something wrong with him. His arms don’t move.” So I move my arms just a wee bit to and fro but it’s awkward. It’s somewhere in between Lime Green and a Robot, creating a lot of resistance so I can’t build up any momentum. Jesus help me. 

I walk.

There’s the runner. Always shares a perky good morning. No matter what the conditions. Man, ~ est. early 40’s, tight spandex-like bottoms. Large, big bezeled iPhone (Early model) strapped to his right bicep. A runner, he circles the loop 3x, big grin on his face as he passes. Reminds me of a younger Roper (Norman Fell), the landlord on Three’s Company. I watch him as he passes. Happy SOB isn’t he? When’s that last time I ran? It’s been months. And there used to be a time when I cared. And look at me, I could care less. God, what a slug. [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)

Morning Walk. See. Feel. But still can’t sit.

186 Days.
You know the drill.
Consecutive days.
5 miles from Home to Cove Island Park and back. Sort of.

Last week, on a bitter cold and wet morning, and pressed for time, I jumped in the car, and drove to the park. To keep the streak alive.

Heater blowing on my feet. Wind gusts and rain battering the car. And there I was, sheltered and toasty. Protected from all that God could throw at me that morning. Not sure why God was on my mind, but C.S. Lewis called it: “We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.

And so here we are. This morning. 186 consecutive days. I’m migrating, with the birds. But instead of Southward bound, it’s a downward spiral on the Sedentary Bus.

It was Running (for years).

Then Walking for less than a year.

Now Sitting. Just can’t get it going.

I drive to the Park. I take one slow walk around the loop. And make my way to the Point.

Sunrise is at 6:30 a.m. It’s 6:13 a.m.

I’m restless. (Permanent Condition). 17 min to sun up. What to do? What to do?

I notice a bench a few yards in front of me. I can feel tension, in my bones, in the flesh, in my mind —  it flashes No. I think back to Morning Walk. See, But Can’t Sit. Man, you have all sorts of problems. Just sit on it.

I approach the bench. There is a copper plate affixed In Memoriam…

I hadn’t ever noticed.

I scan the area. Bench here. Bench there. Benches everywhere. I never noticed.

I walk by each reading the inscriptions. I find myself drawn in. I walk slowly from one to the next.

  1. In Loving Memory. Vita & Gus. Andover – Where the Weeping Willow Stood.
  2. In Loving Memory. “DeeDee”. Wife, Mother, Sister. Grandmother. A friend to all she met. 1946-2016.
  3. In Loving Memory. Bob. Husband, Dad, Papa, Brother, Uncle, Cousin, Friend. 1942-2019.
  4. In Loving Memory. Dominick and Mary. 2011.
  5. In Memory of Debbie. 1976-2008., Love You Forever…
  6. In Memory of Joseph. 1913-2004.
  7. In Loving Memory of Peter. 1947-2011. A man who actively enjoyed all seasons of life at Cove Island Park.
  8. In Loving Memory. “Bim”. 1928-2014.
  9. In Loving Memory of Raymond. 1932-2007. Raymond’s roots ran deep. Deeply loved. Loved deeply.
  10. Beloved Grandson. Christopher. 1996-2014.
  11. Inhale the Beauty. Joan and Bill.
  12. In Loving Memory of Edwin & Margaret.
  13. Mary Pauline. 1943-2015. In our hearts forever. Your loving husband and family.
  14. In Loving Memory of Joseph. “Fish On.”
  15. In Loving Memory of Connie. September 1998
  16. Diane. 1946-2014. My Wife – My Love – My Companion in Life. I Miss You. Gordon.
  17. John. 1950-2017. Devoted Husband, loving father
  18. In Loving Memory of Melvin. He brought so much joy to so many.
  19. Louise’s Bench. (No dates. Just Louise’s Bench)
  20. In Loving Memory of Timothy and Grace.
  21. Our Sweet Angel. Maria. You lifted our spirts with Love, Laughter, Music and Dance. 1973-2015.
  22. Raymond. 1943-2018. The best things in life are the ones you love.
  23. In loving memory of Joseph “Little Joe”. Known for his love of family friends, Harleys, Corvettes and sunny days at the beach, Remember me, when you look into the seas…and there I’ll be. 1948-2015
  24. In Loving Memory of Jennifer. Your beautiful smile remains forever in our hearts

I look at my watch, it’s 6:29, a minute from sunrise. I walk to the last bench.  The gulls are now quiet, they too wait for the Sun in our moment of silence.

I’m reading the last, Bench #25…I brush my fingers over the metal plate. Over the letters making up soft, and then the letters breeze, and then gentle and tide and kind and heart. And then my index finger skips over the letters making up Love always

I brush away a tear, and then another…

[Read more…]

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. 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…]

Walking. To Unclenched.

3:50 a.m.

I’m up.

Groggy from Tylenol PM. I stare at the clock, do the math, a whopping 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep.  Whaddya know! 1 day in a row! 

The euphoria burns off quickly. An 8 a.m. appointment weighs heavily. I punch out a few notes for the meeting on my laptop, close the lid, needing at least a full hour to prep for the call.  Unfinished. Unprepared. Anxious. I drag the three horsemen with me as I head out the door.

I’m off.

The Head is not in this game this morning.  That is, my 5-mile walk around Cove Island to start the day. It’s Month 4 of day after day after consecutive day of 90-minute twilight walks. You could have passed on the morning walk, finished your prep to take a load off, but Nooooo. That’s not how you roll.

I’m rushing.  I’m not Here. I’m not There. I’m a bit everywhere. I need to cut my loop short and hurry back.

I tuck the camera away, I’m half way home. I pick up the pace.
[Read more…]

Walking. One Short. From Wing to Wing.

He has to be in his late 70’s, maybe early 80’s, but he’s out each morning walking, in twilight. There’s a handful of us obsessives out at this hour, including me, that strange guy, always in black head to toe, The Camera Guy (as Jim calls me, grateful he’s left ‘Creepy’ out of the prefix).

He has a severe limp when he walks, his right side slumps with each step. Retired Vet, would be my bet. Large, hulking man, must have been fierce in his day. (vs. me still pretending to be fierce, a younger old dog with false teeth, literally and figuratively. At least they don’t clack, yet. Something to look forward to).

We’re on Month 4 here with the morning walks, and despite the crossing of our paths each morning, he would not lift his head to acknowledge me. Perhaps stuck in his head. Perhaps wanting to leave me stuck in mine, which was exactly where I prefer to be. We all send off our own scent don’t we, mine a ‘Black Prickly de Chanel.’

Last week, he broke the silence.

“Do you know if the other Swan is still around? My wife and I were worried.”

I paused for a minute, and not sure exactly why I lied, but I did. I did notice her partner had been absent for a week or so, but I just didn’t have it in me to tell him. Or, perhaps I didn’t want to believe he was gone. Like Gone, Gone.

“Yes, he’s down by the bridge at the end of The Cove.” [Read more…]

Saturday Morning


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

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.

Miracle. All of It.

It’s 5:52 a.m., yesterday morning.

I’m done with The Cove Park portion of my 5 mile walk, and it’s the last 7/10s of a mile in the home stretch. On asphalt. Through the side streets. Heading home.

I’m tired. I’m dragging. And my head has shifted to Work.

I slip the cap on the lens while I’m walking (because one cannot waste precious minutes).  I tuck the camera into the sling, zip up the bag, and swing it over my shoulder. I accelerate my pace. And practice my breathing as instructed by James Nestor. (Because he’s so deep into my consciousness, I can’t take 10 breaths without thinking about his instruction.)

I round the corner onto Anthony Lane and hear a rustle.

And there they are. The two of them. Staring at me.

I freeze.

They freeze.

Please. Please don’t move. I slide my sling from back to front, and start unzipping the bag. I don’t take my eyes off them.

Please. Please don’t move. I don’t know anything about shutter speed. Continuous bursts. Or whatever-the-Hell-else I need to catch you in motion.

I grab the camera. My hands shake, the lens hood flies off and hits the ground. The lens cap follows and rolls a foot or two on the shoulder. My God Man. Get a Grip. You’re going to blow this.

Jack turns to his brother: “Is this amateur hour?  Can you believe this guy?”  “No sh*t. I’m getting tired of posing here.”

I raise the camera.

I see a thin film through the view finder. OMG, the humidity is fogging up the lens.

It clears.

And then comes the camera shake. I tuck my elbows in tight to my body. My breaths are short and quick, hot little puffs.

I move my index finger to the shutter, ever so gently.

I zoom in on my targets.

Now!

And Bam! I got it!  And another. And another. And another. And another.

They turn to walk to the woods.

I watch them disappear.

Wow, so Beautiful.  Miracle, all of it.


Notes:

  • Photos: Mine! A Miracle! July 27 2020.
  • Post Inspired by Kiki. She told me that if I didn’t share this story, she would send the Dale and Sawsan posse after me. So here it is.
  • Post title Inspired by Albert Einstein’s quote: “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
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