May 4, 2020

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood.


Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.

-Helen Keller


It is a sunny, cloudless, warm day today. Birds sing their joyful tunes in seemingly unending conversation. I wonder, why do humans feel that birdsong is joyful? Does it reflect an interspecies commonality of feeling? The birds don’t get anything out of our feeling that what they are doing is joyful. It isn’t something we learned because something that made us happy occurred after hearing birds sing. I’ve heard birds singing on dismal, grey, low overcast days who sound just as cheery as when it’s bright, warm and sunny. And listening to it always brings me back to the moment.

Waldo is elated, as ever, to be out on the rail-trail. He trots along, nose just above the ground, as if he’s on a vital mission and needs to get somewhere important as soon as possible, then, suddenly, veers off the path into the grass and bushes, pauses, focused on some small piece of nature. Equally as suddenly, he’s back on mission and trotting down the trail, pulling me behind. The entire time, his tail is wagging and I swear he has a grin — at least when he turns so I can see his face instead of his butt.

It’s about sixty degrees out and a few bushes and weeds have flowered. Those flowers weren’t there yesterday. I’ll bet they exploded with the dawn. Other bushes have leafed out with small leaves, but bigger than the ones they tentatively displayed yesterday. Spring is not far away, at least by nature’s calendar, if not by the Gregorian calendar. Still, the trees slumber in cold weather mode with only budded branch tips to show that they too are awakening to the warming weather.

As I walk along, I do a systems check. My legs are strong, my natural gait rapid and determined, my breathing slow and unlabored. My mood is calm and alert, in wonder of all that is life. But I can’t help but ponder if this might not be my last walk with Waldo for a while. The Coronavirus could strike at any minute, making it not only uncomfortable to be out here, but immoral. I don’t fear this so much as dread it, because that would mean that I would have to keep Waldo inside for at least two weeks. If I’m bedridden, it would be damned hard to entertain him by playing ball or keep-away with his tug rope. I could be so sick that I would find it exceedingly hard to get out of bed to clean up the poop and pee that he would have to grace me with. Family would step in and help out, even take Waldo to live with them if I ended up in the hospital, but he does require a lot of exercise and I don’t want to burden them if I can help it. Ah well, all life is struggle. I just need to focus on the beauty around me as I walk with Waldo today. I may not be here tomorrow.

Being over seventy, I am at higher risk of death from the virus than someone who is twenty. This doesn’t frighten me. My life is approaching its end anyway, though that’s probably still years from now, if something like COVID-19 doesn’t take me. Still, death is closer to me than it was when I was twenty. I think about it sometimes and its inevitability seems acceptable. At least now when I’m healthy and still able to walk with Waldo six miles a day. I probably will soil my drawers when the final moment is close. For now, I just soak in the joy of being out here with Waldo, knowing that there are all too few opportunities for this in my future.

I get a lot of joy by watching others enjoy themselves here on the rail-trail as well. The cheery hello as we pass, the friendly tone of voice as a few words are exchanged and the smiles that are revealed in the eyes as well as the lips. It warms my soul to see the smaller kids romp and play as they’re herded down the tarmac by their parents. I laugh inwardly when I see a little girl on her bicycle, followed by her dad jogging behind. “You’re supposed to keep up with your pace car!” I call to him as we pass. He laughs between labored breaths and continues his pursuit.

And, of course, Waldo. He is always so happy to be out here. I can see it in his gait, how he holds his tail, and even in his eye when he turns and gives me that are-you-okay look and the what’s-keeping-you sidelong glance.

And, bring what fate may, that does my heart good.


This is what I call a good day!

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