Walking. And Self Medicating.

4:20 a.m. 61° F.  Wind gusting. Dark Sky signals cloud cover @ 100%. Rain in an hour.

I walk.

Cove Island Park. 424 consecutive mornings. Like in a row.

Why so groggy? 

Mind scans the pre-bed time routine.

  • Shower.
  • + 2 Advil PMs. Essential for 6 hours of sleep.
  • + 2 Advil Dual Action Acetaminophens. ‘Now get up to 8 hours of powerful relief…lower back pain…’ It ain’t eight hours of relief. It’s like four. And I’m now on Amazon’s monthly, serial subscription ordering plan.
  • + 1 little blue pill. To keep the pipes running. TMI.
  • + Sugar, throughout the day up to bed time. In the form of handfuls of Hersey’s nuggets, bags of Welch’s Fruit Snacks (they are small bags), and the latest addition — Swiss Miss Premium Rich Chocolate Hot Cocoa. With a handful of mini marshmallows sprinkled on top.

There was a time. No flu shots. No aspirin. No cold medication. No allergy medicine. No Anything. A diesel engine that would just keep running. Middle age Plus = Wheels coming off this bus.

I walk. Limping. Left, lower back in a bad place.  Internal parts, bones, blood, arteries, nerve endings, all sloshing in a sugar bath.

Nope. I don’t want scolding, coaching or gentle persuasion from you Sugar-Free Vegan’s out there. No. Don’t want to hear it. This isn’t a Cocaine problem, or an Oxycontin problem (yet).

I walk. Back is loosening up. [Read more…]

Walking. Beneath the Plimsoll line of conscious control.

4:26 a.m.

Dark Sky app: 48º F. Feels like 42º F, with wind gusts up to 27 mph. Cloud cover 95%. Light rain forecast in one hour… and, then, 100% cloud cover.

I slide on hoodie, with down jacket on top. Tuk over the ears. And out the door.

I ease into the front seat. Lower back, to hamstring, to thigh to left knee, sizzles. With both hands on the steering wheel, I close eyes, clench teeth, inhale, and wait for lightning to pass. I shift in seat, right, then left, then up straight, trying to locate the pain-free zone. Can’t shake it. I fire up the ignition, and drive.

With a sliver of time, a narrow window for light, I need to hustle. I slide out of the front seat, gingerly place right foot, and then left foot on the ground. I stand for a moment and wait for pain to subside. A few deep breaths, and sizzle settles to simmer, and its go-time.

390 consecutive days, like in a row. My morning walk at Cove Island Park. Backpack. Camera. And I’m off.

I walk. [Read more…]

Walking. 365 days. Like in a row.

Good morning.

I looked back at my blog post on May 5, 2020. Clear skies. 42° F … “Nippy for May” is how I described it.  Didn’t know at the time that I’d be on this sustained journey.  This 365 consecutive day morning walk to Cove Island Park at daybreak. 365 days, like in a row.

I was surprised to see that a year ago, I was monitoring the nesting of yet another Canada Goose. And this year, I’m at it again. Same one? Who knows?  On the drive to the park this morning (and every morning since gestation started), I’m unsettled, uneasy — until I pull up, and verify that everything is as it should be. Life is as it should be. In order. No cruelty. No tragedies. Tracking to nature’s time. Hesse: But I need to feel beautiful and holy things around me, always…I need it, and I refuse to give it up…That’s my fatal flaw.

Mother Goose was curled up in her nest. Her mate, was strolling up and down the pier a few yards away.  Beth described me as their Midwife, and that sounds about right.

And despite Daniel’s prognostication that Mother Goose may bless me with the birth of a little one on my Anniversary, it didn’t happen. Not today.  Not yet anyway. I can wait.

And Him (or Her, more likely) way way upstairs, didn’t bless me with a glorious sunrise to honor my Anniversary.  No multi color light show in the sky. No wow shots.  But to be fair, He’s given me far, far more days of majesty than days of overcast, by a wide margin.

The rain, this morning, a super fine mist — somewhere in size between dust motes and very light rain. And it continued for my entire walk. A cool, light, fresh touch.

No one ventured out in the rain this morning. In a city of 130,000, I was alone. My Park. My Time.

It was high tide and water was gushing into the Cove.

The flags flying high above the Cove Island Snack shop (badly in need of paint) rustled gently in the breeze.

Waterfowl were awakening, cormorants were fishing.

A light fog hangs over the water.

And a lightness hangs over me as I’m driving home thinking that it’s time for a morning Break. A sabbatical of sorts.  Sleep in for a day or two, and then consider my next steps.

And then what? Replace it with what?

With what that could possibly be better? 


DK @ Daybreak. 5:08 am, May 5, 2021. 50° F. Light misty rain. Cove Island Park, Stamford, CT.

Walking. With Abby.

360 consecutive days.  Like in a row. Morning walk @ Daybreak.

Sun rises at 5:52 a.m, twilight is ~ 50 to 60 minutes earlier. You can do the math. Early.

I’m on I-95 N.  I shift in my seat and an electric current fires from lower back, through hip, down the leg and sizzles all the way down to the toes.

I’m back in Physical Therapy.  PT, is what the cool people call it. Diagnosis? Not pulled hamstring, but lower back (again). Two weeks in, better, but far from rehabbed.

I ease out of the car, and my conversation with my new Therapist flashes back.

“Where’s Abby?”

“Abby?” [Read more…]

Walking. You Would Never Break the Chain.

Morning Walk. 348 consecutive days. Like in a row. 

This morning, 6:00 a.m. Calf Pasture Beach in Norwalk, CT.

I’m at the end of the Pier.

I wait. Sunrise @ 6:11 a.m.

And wouldn’t you know it, my playlist flips to The Chain, by Fleetwood Mac.

…Listen to the wind blow / Watch the sun rise…

I reach for the iPhone and press repeat.  And turn the Volume up.

And, I stand, and wait.

Because they don’t disappoint. My Canada Geese.

They’re out in the distance.

I turn the volume down, their call, barely audible over Stevie Nicks.

They turn slightly left, heading my way.

I hoist the camera up.  Steady DK, Steady. Breathe.

Here they come.  Come on Team, keep coming. Stay your course.

They’re in my viewfinder.  Bearing down straight at me. Now DK. Now!

I put camera down to watch.

Entire flock honking, wings beating.

So much sky. So much land. And they pass directly overhead. Over MY head.  Goosebumps.

I turn volume back up.

…I can still hear you saying / You would never break the chain…


Notes:

Walking. With very faint, very human(s).

Michael Ondaatje: “Trust me, this will take time but there is order here, very faint, very human.”

5:55 a.m. 340 consecutive days. Like in a row. Morning walk. This morning, Calf Pasture Beach, Norwalk. Dark Sky: 48° F. 96% cloud cover.

I walk.

6:01 a.m. Up ahead. Tall, lanky, young and solo. Hat pulled down over his ears. Shoulders sagging, heavy step. Not looking at skyline, head bowed. I stretch my gait to trace his steps, shoes sink in wet sand at low tide, my step, shoe size, almost a match. Ember from his cigarette glows in twilight, he flicks it away, and tucks both hands deep into his pockets. Mary Oliver: “When one is alone and lonely, the body gladly lingers in the wind or the rain…anything that touches.

6:13 a.m. Runner, unmasked, aggressively approaching in my lane on sidewalk. Shouting something, lips moving, but inaudible through my AirPods. “Did you get the sunrise on Wednesday?” He’s like inside of 3 feet, well inside of my personal space. And, it’s Saturday, like 3 days later, it’s near 100% overcast this morning, and I’ve never seen him before in my life. Have I somehow lost a day, or two? And, what was that, that hit my chin, spittle from his mouth, rain droplet or gull deposit?

He continues. “It was amazing!” I nod, smile back. He keeps running. It was amazing.

6:15 a.m. Two on the beach, shoeless, covered in a blanket. Giggling. Waving wands, soap bubbles rising, drifting then disappear. They dip the wands and repeat, giggling.

6:18 a.m. A familiar fellow walker is taking a shot of something in the tree. I look up to see a squirrel gnawing at a red apple, cheeks full. I keep walking, turn back, and see him toss another apple to his bushy friend.

6:20 a.m. Walker. Tall galoshes. Masked. With Goggles. Alien. I try to make eye contact — what kind of human is armoured up like this? She avoids eye contact and continues down the pier.

I walk.

[Read more…]

Walking. In Sacred Time.

5:15 a.m. Woozy from sleep meds.

Trudge to bathroom. Empty tank. Strip down for morning weigh-in.  Pause. Step over to toilet. Spit. I silently thank Anneli (again) for her tip, every ounce counts. Weigh-in outcome? Flat to yesterday. Could be worse.

Forecast, 19° F. But hold on. With wind chill: 4° F, wind gusts up to 39 mph. Oooooooh.

Body yearns for the warmth of the comforter and the bed. Sean Patrick Mulroy: “Here is what I love about the brain: How it remembers. How it sews what soft it can into a blanket for the nights when I am cold...”

301 consecutive days. Like in a row. Cove Island Park morning walk @ daybreak. Gotta keep the streak alive.

I suit up.  In this order. Underwear. White cotton t-shirt. Wool socks. Another pair of wool socks over top. Gym shorts over underwear. Fleece lined sweatpants over gym shorts. Fleece lined snow pants over the fleece lined sweatpants. Turtleneck over t-shirt. Sweatshirt with hoodie over Turtleneck.  Goose down jacket.  Another goose down jacket over top of the first. Tuk pulled tight over the ears. (Pronounced Tuuuuuuuk.) Hoodie overtop of the tuk.  Hiking boots. Thinsulate gloves (to work the camera dials).  Done! Ready!  I pause to catch my breath, I’m overheating. Wow. I’m coming unglued here. This is Darien, CT for God sakes. Not the Vostok Research Station in Antarctica.

I step out the door. Come on. Hit me. Give me your best shot. [Read more…]

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…]

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