Life Is A Jogging Trail

I’ve been walking a lot these days, all part of my effort to create a Laurie who’s leaner and more lithe.    I put in two to three miles every day.  Where I walk depends on my schedule.  If I walk before work, I do my three miles at Memorial Park which is close to my office and both are on Houston’s near westside.   If I wait to walk later in the day, I put two miles in the track at Art Storey Park, which is closer to my home on the city’s southwest side.  
  
Interesting place.   It was built as a park that serves as flood detention.   It floods (on purpose) three to four times a year which the Army Corps of Engineers says alleviates a major flooding issue for thousands and thousands of residents who live along and near Brays Bayou, which parallels the park.

Now, for those of you not from East Texas or any of the Southern states, a bayou is a body of water typically found in flat, low-lying areas, and can refer either to an extremely slow-moving stream or a river with a  poorly defined shoreline, or to a marshy lake or wetland.  Houston is silly with bayous that meander throughout the city. 

And while the park might have been built for strictly mercenary means, it’s lovely.   It’s surrounded by a two mile paved jogging trail with manmade inclines for extra caloric burn, a very zen-like tai chi space, a picnic area near a duck pond, a cool playground, BBQ facilities, lovely flora  and in the center of it all, a retention pond (fully stocked and fishing is permitted) with a multi-fountain water  feature in the middle.

I go to Art Storey Park to walk and I love to do it without an iPod.  It’s built along the very busy Sam Houston Parkway, a tollway which completely encircles the city and the noise from the constant flow of traffic, regardless of hour, can be deafening.  But after 21 years in this city, I’ve learned to drown out the noise.  The drone of revved engines, honking horns and sirens are just a part of the everyday audible ambience.    Besides, when I walk on purpose, I’m driven so noise isn’t an issue and when I’m driven, I do some of my best thinking.  In fact, my mind is never sharper than when I walk.  

Behold...yet another "Mr. Kendrick"

In the process of all this ambling, I’ve resolved many issues (global and my own). I’ve given numerous award-winning speeches, told off adversaries, redecorated my living room, envisioned a first date….and the last one; went through the motions preparing an entire Thanksgiving dinner for 12 hungry, but finicky Kendricks AND….had mind-blowing imaginary sex with Mad Men hottie, actor, John Hamm.

I’ve also used the time to compose many blog posts and this is one of them.

It began innocently enough. 

 It was just the other day, as I completed my first quarter-mile, I began to notice things I’ve never seen before.  Usually, I walk with my head down.  When I’m accepting my Pulitzer or being interviewed for my literary prowess on 60 Minutes in my head, I keep my gaze downward.   It helps the focus.  Plus, passersby can’t see the goofy smile on my face–especially when I’m having a John Hamm moment……puuuuurrrrrrrrrr.

But yeah, I noticed a lot of things I hadn’t before.   Birds, for one.  I saw Cardinals, Blue Jays, all kinds of ducks, plus several graceful egrets–the bastard cousins of the swan and other birds I couldn’t identify, which only proved my ornithological ignorance.   

I also saw something us city kids hardly see anymore:  big snapping turtles, lizards, squirrels, a flying fish and what we here in Texas call Pill Bugs; those strange, armored looking black critters that curl up in a ball when threatened.  I haven’t seen one of those in forever.

And then after the thrill of all that fauna passed, I started people watching.   Every kind of ethnicity was represented, as was every body type.   The thin, the heavy, the short, the tall.  Some people wanted to optimize their workout by wearing sweats which at 94 degrees, even in late afternoon, made them running/walking sweat lodges.  There were the thin, pretty girls, who even while exercising are so very well put together.   They even look cute panting.   They don’t sweat either.  No, thin pretty women in Lycra midriff tops that expose well-carved abs and ass-hugging shorts “en-dampen”.   Women like me who cover our multitudes of corporeal sin with baggy shorts and even baggier T-shirts  that  some old boyfriend left behind…one that escaped being used to clean our toilets….we sweat. 

And then it hit me.  This is what it’s all about!!!

I walked up an incline with a Gulf breeze head wind.   It made the walk tougher.   I rounded a curve, headed in a different direction and started walking down hill with a tail wind.   That made the walk easier.  Having the contrast of the uphill battle made me gratefully appreciate the downhill ease.

And then I noticed everyone else around me.  We were all there, experiencing the jogging track at the same time, but with different goals in mind.  Some people ran, others walked.  Some got tired and stopped along the way.  Some chose walking or running partners; others chose to tackle the course alone.   Some chose running or walking in an opposite direction.   Some only ran the two miles;  others ran the circuit twice and got four miles in.

I have no idea why these very different people were at Art Storey Park that day.  Their motivations were their own.  But there was one thing we all had in common:  regardless of who we were, why we were there, how we ran, how long we walked or what we wore when we did it, we ALL started out the same:  fresh, eager and pristine.   Then, we all finished the course we chose to take, tired, sweaty and ultimately, happy the exercise was over.   

It was an accomplished mission that involved a very defined start….and the goal of finishing.   

And in between the two, it’s an incredible journey rife with uphills and downhills, effort and ease…all kinds of scenery that represent so many variations on every possible theme.  It’s a sojourn that we take on our terms, at our pace, at our discretion.

Now, tell me THAT’S NOT a metaphor for life and living.

.

4 comments

  1. As a fellow walker & jogger, I salute you! When I injured my leg many years ago and couldn’t run for a while, I just started walking some of the trails, and like you, my senses became a lot more acute to the surroundings. I started to really hear, see, and smell things I hadn’t noticed when I was sucking in wind from a more agonizing run. Now that I’m able to run again, I often choose to walk and take in the sights, sounds, and smells instead. I smiled as I read about your acceptance speech at the Pulitzer Prize…

    Nicely written, as usual LK!

  2. If you need a Hamm fix, I think you’ll enjoy the first two minutes of Bridesmaids. 🙂

    (Actually, the whole thing is good.)

  3. When you first wrote this you didn’t mention where you were doing this other than that it was close to home. I guessed correctly that it was Arthur Story Park. It looks like a really neat place. If I’m in that area around lunch time I’ll park in the back corner of the Home Depot. Even though I’m reading the paper it’s nice to have that in view. I could just swear that I’ve actually seen white pelicans on that little “island”. I know they are not egrets because I know an egret even from that distance. Having been born and raised in Corpus, I also know a pelican when I see one. Even at that distance.

  4. Some members of my family and I have recently begun jogging together. We had varying levels of prior jogging experience, but only recently began doing it together, as a unit. We’ve entered multiple 5ks together now, one 10k, and are scheduled for our first half-marathon in October. Our ultimate goal is to run in the Boston Marathon together.

    I see that you’re in the Houston area. We are near your same latitudinal level. The reason I mention that is because I fully understand how hard it is to get out there and do it in this southern heat and humidity. But it is completely worthwhile once you make it through your finish line for the day (wherever that may be).

    Keep it up!

And now, you may opine your ass off...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s