The Randomness of Morning Walks
Walking, like writing, comes through me, not from me.
Around 7 a.m., I met up with two friends, Eric and Mindy, arriving with my vest blinking neon loud in the silence. Neither of them minded and probably felt safer striding alongside of me while light took is lazy time catching up with us on a morning walk.
Known somewhat for my walks, I don’t wave a magic wand to urge myself out early or in winter or amidst deluges. It’s a calling from deep in me. Like writing, it comes through me and not from me.
Mindy knows my pacing will outpace hers. She likes the challenge. As the organizer of our Covid walking group text thread, she often invited the entire thread on walks whereas I usually chose two or three to join. The reason? The random nature of what me might encounter. The other reason, control. I can control the pace and go wherever my instincts tell me.
Nearing the top of Mt. Auburn, we witnessed a blast of orange and pinks coming from the east. At once, I maneuvered and steered us, like the three kings following our star, toward Eden Park then along route less traversed. Mindy claimed she’d never been down that path. Her husband and I insisted otherwise.
On our walks, we dissect challenges with our adult children, civic issues, and what restaurant is open or closed or trying to survive. As residents in OTR, commitment to the neighborhood involves the continuous support of local businesses, restaurants, and social services. We’re there in winter, like the postman, unlike tourists who traipse in when weather is fair. I might say, we’re a lot more like Browns fans in our steadfast support of the place than Bengals fans, but I don’t want to anger my readers for the sake of a metaphor since the Browns and Bengals play this upcoming weekend.
Scaling down and up old limestone steps with faded grass grown over them, we arrived on the backside of Morris Road, near the Cincinnati Parks facilities garage. In the distance, we could see Gilbert Avenue which would take us back into downtown.
Unless Annette had another senseless idea to enter a treed area surrounding the park departments headquarters. A year ago, she entered the woods and on the other side, nearly ran into two deer, wrote a poem, and found her mother’s spirit in the spotting and the poem.
“If you don’t mind getting your shoes wet, we’ll go this way,” I said. Mindy and Eric, having returned from Italy, wore some of their travel hiking gear and weren’t bothered.
We entered the woods on the northern edge and followed a path that muddied the bottoms of our shoes. Halfway through, I asked, “I wonder if this is the right way?” Eric stood a foot taller than me, the milkweed, and goldenrod, and supposed we were fine. A small parking lot in our sights, we stepped downhill. The battle with the prickers and thistle worsened. I high stepped through the weeds, no physical trail in sight for my feet, but approaching the opening where I had observed the mother-deer. Eric followed, retreating whenever a branch snapped after I passed through. Mindy remained several dozen yards behind us. Reaching the clearing, I returned to lead her down.
We brushed ourselves off and laughed a lot at my waywardness. Looking back, the signs had been obvious, but my path not so much.
My city walks never have a plan. Mark disagrees. He claims something inside me always has a plan (through me, not of me, I remind him). Perhaps I’m working on a piece about rivers and am drawn south to the Ohio (or that I like running water). It’s subconscious and good for the soul to follow my inner guide.
The poet, Marilyn Nelson, fictionalized her friendship with Father Jacques de Foïard-Brown, calling him Abba Jacob, a man who conducted meditations by leading people on hikes. “He’s cutting across fields and walking through weeds up to your chest, and you’re walking around after him, thinking, what is he doing? Does he have an idea? Is there a plan? No, the point of it is just, you are following. You’re just kind of with him, and he’s doing a completely random march through the wilderness.” He found it amusing his followers stick with him.
I find it humorous too. That anyone still texts and asks me to walk. That Mark wakes up on Saturday morning and asks, “We walkin’?” We’ve lost our way numerous times in other countries (oh, Paris) and one time our marriage.
My parents’ families grew up in the borghini of Italy, small towns with access to rugged hillsides with forests and old mines. My grandfather tells the story of retreating to the woods often as a young boy. Just this week, I learned the Italian word for hiking—alpinissmo, and the hills around Cincinnati often feel like Alps when on foot.
Maybe my path is to walk in lockstep with the ancestors, with no particular plan, other than to find my way home to them.
*Drop me a comment and tell me where your walks take you, and why. I’d love to know if we’re in lockstep.