Wednesday, July 23, 2008
I went to bed last night feeling crappy--suspiciously crappy. You know, the kind of crappiness that makes you wonder if you're coming down with the flu, or if you're going to wake up in the night with a case of food poisoning. This morning I felt no better. I was shaky, had a headache, butterflies in my stomach, rapid heartbeat, etc.
Still, I got myself together and went to the park to hike because, frankly, it's a compulsion and I just can't stop myself. If I can crawl out of bed and I don't have some other commitment that absolutely prevents it, I'm gonna get outside in the morning. There have been plenty of times that I've gotten a half mile down the trail and thought, This is stupid. You're sick / exhausted / have a million things to do. Forget this and go home. But I almost never do, and I'm always happy when I don't.
Today was no exception. I was walking a route that's about 4 miles long, with a good resting place right at the midpoint. The first half went mighty slow and I truly felt like shit. I stopped and sat under a tree for a while, dreading the rest of the walk. I was watching a daddy longlegs and wondering how long it would be before the ants and ticks started to find me when the magic happened, right on schedule. The headache eased, the shaking subsided and I began to feel halfway human. I got up and finished my hike, pleased and grateful for the cure.
I wish I understood what it is about just clocking time outdoors that has this comforting power. It's not the exercise. Gyms and aerobics classes have the opposite effect on me: I enter feeling fine and wind up in need of a fainting couch. At times I think it's the beauty of the outdoors, but let's face it, the forest is not always beautiful. Right now it's hot, muggy, swarming with flies and mosquitoes, overrun with poison ivy--and it even smells bad. During hot, dry spells there's a sour odor of decay that rises up in the woods. All that should make hiking a misery, yet it never does.
I know I shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth, but just accept it and be thankful for it. I wish everybody could share a little of the bliss I get from my addiction.
Diana Huntress, Master of the Fontainebleau School, 1550-60. Image from Web Gallery of Art.