For the last 18 months or so I've been working at developing the habit of walking and occasionally running. Some of it is for fitness sake. Some of it is for spending time with Tricia and helping her get fit. Some of it is for prayer. Some of it is just because it feels good.
I usually walk in the early morning, before sunrise in the fall and winter; at sunrise in the late spring and summer. It's a good time for moving about and for praying. Nature entices both from me. Also, being a life-long, card carrying member of the Introverts Club, I like being out when the place is not crawling with people.
Tricia has been in Ventnor for 4 days with her mother. I told her I'd check on the garden plot we have at the Florence Community Garden: http://oldmenplantingchurches.blogspot.com/2013/05/community-gardening-in-florence-and.html. It certainly doesn't need watering with all the rain we've had, but we wanted to make sure seeds were coming up, seedlings were developing, and the weeds weren't taking over.
We're a one car family, so she had the car. We'd been talking about what'd be like to walk there, so I mentioned I'd go today. There 's a system of paved rail trails I can join right near where we live. The leg to Florence, northwest of downtown Northampton, is called the Norwottuck Rail Trail. A sign on the trail let's me know it's about 2.25 miles there; so about 4.5 miles total, give or take. Very doable.
So at 6:15 I headed out. The sun was up; the skies showed bright blue, the air was calm, and humidity was very low. The temperature was 47 degrees, so I had a light sweatshirt on.
The trail is flat so there's no climbing of any sort. It works it's way past the backs of houses in neighborhoods, intersects streets, and takes you through woods, and past wetlands. You can see all sorts of dams and culverts for flood control, some of them quite old, I suspect. Beaver dens are visible as well from the trail. The birds were out in force, singing and flitting about in the trees; getting breakfast. There weren't many folks on the path with me: an occasional biker, a woman walking her dog, 3or 4 of joggers, and that was it. During the week it feels there are more.
I was able to use the time to pray and enjoy the exercise in the beauty of God's Creation. I wasn't sure how long it would take to get to the garden as we've always driven, but the time ended up being an hour. I'm not sure if I'm a slow walker - I don't think so - or it generally takes an hour on foot. But once you get to the center of Florence, you cross Route 9, and it's just a few minutes up Meadow Street to the fields where the garden is. The walk there is pleasant too.
To my delight, the garden is doing very well despite the rains. It wasn't a wash out. However, there was a hand-made sign on the gravel road giving access to the middle of the garden saying not to drive in because it was muddy. No matter, virtually everything we've planted is either coming up from seed, or growing well. Some of the flowers already are budding, and the tomato plants have flowers too. Nothing was eaten. The weeds aren't of control, and it looks pretty much as we left it. So far so good!
I only stayed for 10 minutes or so. I called Tricia and let her know how things were, then headed back to the ranch. There's some weeding to do, but we'll get to it later in the week.
I have to say I really love the fact Northampton is a great place to walk, or bike for that matter. People have put thought into taking advantage of the land around us for exercise and constitutionals. They're also quite respectful of the natural resources around us, so no one wants to abuse the land. I think many here would not miss if cars and trucks disappeared from the landscape. Still, it's a pleasure and a grace to be able to get out in the early morning to walk and sojourn in the simple natural wonders given us. I've found a physical rebirth of sorts by being able to get out and get going. So has Tricia, although she's always been much more of a mover than I.
Doing the garden thing has also returned me to an earlier time when Tricia would plant and I would do the maintenance, especially the weeding. I like weeding for some reason. I guess it putting things back to order or clarity, otherwise chaos reigns, and the planting work prior is wasted. For me, there's a meditative aspect to weeding and cleaning. I remember reading of women in China or Korea who'd assiduously pick up litter or clean outdoor spaces daily so they were virtually wiped free without a speck left behind. There's something beautifully humble, comforting and prayerful to me about that. It's almost a proper showing of respect to God and blessing our brothers and sisters by keeping things clean and in order. Maybe they were forced to do it, but I know God noticed their work.
This summer we want to walk more (and run), and if God so blesses, be able to purchase bikes. We'll see. I know I'll be making the trek back to the garden on foot again ... and beyond. It's worth the trip for all sorts of reasons I don't even recognize yet.