Here in the desert of Southern Arizona, we are blessed with sunny skies and crisp mornings this time of year. As soon as I step out of the house in the morning I feel the energy of this place. There is evidence of javelinas from the night before who have been rooting in the gardens, the birds are establishing their territory and there are certain plants, notably ocotillos that have tall spiky limbs that occasionally droop such that they make perfect perches for birds to sit and capture the early morning rays. I call these the warming perches and they are occupied by the same crowd of birds each morning.
For the last few weeks I have challenged myself to develop a race walking style for my morning exercise. It is an amazing gait that frees tension in my back and the aches and pains of the early morning rapidly dissipate. I find that concentrating on the physicality of the gait, frees my mind to daydream about paintings and sculptures that are some place and time in the future.
I watch other walkers too. My route includes familiar faces of people that I do not know. We share a wave, a smile and “good morning”. It’s a comfortable, companionable sense of community amongst strangers.
Today however, I was struck by a few solitary people, who seemed to be bearing the weight of the world on their shoulders. There was no lightness to their gait, their eyes were cast down, shoulders hunched, teeth clenched, a grim determination marking the progress of their walk. No bird was seen, no acknowledgement of the rugged beauty that they were marking off with each plodding step. What anxieties or worries were overwhelming their spirits? Will the walk eventually penetrate the grim wall that seemed to surround them? Greetings bounced off these walls and fell to the ground un-noticed. I have been there, it’s a self imposed, cold, inhospitable place.
As I continued my walk, the vision of these people lurked amongst my daydreams. Unwanted memories of sad times emerged from the depths:
“Plodding steps mark time,
Life passing between shuffles,
Once past, forever lost.“
I was forced to re visit the strategies I have used to drag myself out of that world.
“Look upward and smile,
Smell life, taste air, feel the wind,
Reframe that inner voice”
I’m looking forward to greeting the world in the morning.