Posted by: Jenn Latino
This week I received 2 donations from “old friends.” The first was from Linda Byrne who, with the exception of blood relatives, is the person who has known me the longest. The Byrne daughters (all 3 of them at one time or another) were mine and Joyce’s baby sitters growing up. The Latino/Byrne family connections run deep and this weekend during their annual summer visit to SC, Linda made a late night donation from inside my house while she was up hanging out with the kids in our families and I was resting up for an early morning walk the next day. The second donation was from Paul Bright. The Latino/Bright family ties run as deep as the Byrne’s from shared classes (Joyce was in Paul’s class, his brother Nino was in mine) to a shared stage when Paul and I starred in Love Letters, a 2-person play, during our college years. Paul is also the lucky man who married and has made a family with my beautiful college roommate, Michelle. Thanks to these old friends for your continued support.
In an effort to beat the heat, I try to walk first thing in the morning. On weekends, this is a great plan because if I start early enough, even 10-14 mile walks can be completed in time to still enjoy a full day in a far too short weekend. I’m a morning person anyway. I am at my best between the hours of 6am and 12pm. By lunchtime, any great ideas I have are usually less than great and any ambitious plans I had to tackle the “to do” list are usually less than ambitious.
I often start my walks before dawn-usually setting my alarm for 5:30 and out the door by 5:45. The quiet of the morning, when the air is already humid but not yet warm, and the grass is wet with dew (or from an early morning sprinkler timer), helps to make my walks a peaceful and calming activity. I enjoy watching the sun gradually begin to light the path as the street lights slowly dim and eventually turn off. The transition is so subtle that I hardly notice it.
It’s fun to watch the neighborhood wake up!
When I start my walks before 6am, I am consistently on the same route as the paper delivery guys. There are two of them: a Monday-Friday guy and a Saturday-Sunday guy. They drive the same green pick up truck, always riding down the wrong side of the road, slowing down at the houses that have the paper boxes attached to their mailbox posts. Because my walk weaves up and down a series of neighborhood streets, and in and out of 3-4 cul de sacs, I pass the paper guys 3, 4, sometimes 5 times during a 3 mile route. The Monday-Friday guy waves the first time we pass and then, every subsequent pass, he just keeps driving, arm outreached with a paper, waiting for the next box to come up, as if he doesn’t see us, just inches from him on the sidewalk, at all. He’s friendly at first but then it is nothing but business. The weekend driver is a very friendly man who waves and says, “Mornin’” every time we pass. When we first started this routine of “over greeting” I thought that he might not realize that we were the same trio that he had passed on the previous street. I mean, there had to be other women in bright pink shirts, being dragged around by 2 black dogs at 5:45 in the morning, right? We are probably scattered all over the neighborhood! But, I say you can never have to many “good mornings!” sent your way so I’m happy to raise a leash (and sometimes a poopie bag) every time he passes.
Besides the paper delivery routines, other signs that the neighborhood is beginning to wake include the summer kid drop off processes. There are 2 houses on the route that I am certain are the home of grandparents or other older and well loved relatives who keep young children who are out of school. Only on weekday mornings, sleepy children hauling backpacks are escorted from the backseat of their parents’ SUV, which is left running in the driveway, to the front door of grandma’s house. One of the grandma’s is usually outside on the porch, wearing a moo-moo and smoking a cigarette, when they arrive. I use her as my gauge of how fast we are walking. That house is only about 1 mile from the end of the route and I know if the kids have already been dropped off, we need to pick up the pace. Most often, granny is there waiting and the SUV is either coming down the road at a safe speed or we pass them a few streets over, speeding down the road, clearly running a little late.
There is one man who is always outside washing a car. He and his wife, who is outside about 30% of the time that we pass, own 3 vehicles. They rotate them so that one is in the garage and 2 are in the driveway. EVERY MORNING, weekday or weekend, he is outside washing the cars in the driveway. He literally washes them at least 4 days a week (I can only vouch for Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday behaviors as those are my walking days). I must admit, the cars look fantastic. Nothing fancy, a campaign colored Honda Accord, silver Buick big something or other, and a Black Cadillac. In addition to spotless vehicles, they have the most perfectly manicured yard in the neighborhood. Ironically, I have never seen him working in the yard which, given the temperatures of SC, seems to be the more logical early morning chore. Save the car washing for the heat of the day when you don’t mind getting splashed with the hose. The car washer smokes a cigar and always raises his sponge or brush to say “hello” while letting the cigar drop slightly to one corner of his mouth. I wonder if the Monday-Friday newspaper guy speaks to him every day.
Walking in the morning does not come without some risks. I will name a few.
75 lbs of “Welcome Home!” During the week, an early morning walk means Riley will spend the day resting and then be ready to party when I get home. I’m too old to keep up with her weeknight party plans.
Frisky Furry Friends, namely squirrels and bunnies. The danger of squirrels was well documented in one of my 2009 posts: Riley and the Flying Squirrels and this year the same little critters are still just as much of a hazard only now they are 12 months more experienced at taunting the dogs. The neighborhood bunnies were very busy this year. They multiplied, well, like rabbits! Last year there were 3-4 that I had to look out for. On Saturday, I counted 11 of the little white tailed hoppers. Riley saw 9 of those 11 and I am still a little concerned that my shoulder is not in its proper location. While walking in Decatur on an early Sunday morning, Kim and I had to pause for two small rat like creatures (only cuter and with brown fur) to scamper across the sidewalk and under a shrub. Kim said they were chipmunks. I am not sure I had ever seen a live chipmunk and I questioned her claim. They weren’t nearly as cute as I expected and also a lot smaller than the cutie pie with the chocolate chip nose and his clumsy counterpart, Dale. You don’t see chipmunks when you walk in the evening.
Sprinklers: I know, I have exhausted my right to complain about the neighborhood lawn watering habits but, in the wee hours of the morning, it is an even greater hazard than when I first reported the problem in Playing Frogger with the Devil’s Strip.
Spider Webs: I’m trying to feel sympathy for the little workers. I am sure that as soon as the sun begins to set, the spiders in the neighborhood begin spinning their web. That isn’t an easy process-I’ve read Charlotte’s Web! The spider has completely good intentions. She wants the web to be long and lean, nearly invisible yet strong, so that as the sun rises and the flies begin to circulate, the unsuspecting little suckers will fly right into the invisible trap and-TaDa! Dinner! However, when this web is strung from the bottom branch of a tree with branches that hang over the sidewalk, rather than catching a fly, the spider catches a 3-Day Walker!! YUCK!! The attack of spiders’ overnight masterpieces are not exclusive to Columbia. They were also present during my morning walks in GA and NC. One benefit to walking with Kim? She is taller and, therefore, usually knocked down at least some of the sticky silky mess before it ever reached me!
Creepy Narrator Voice: While I walk I listen to audio books on my iPod. The narrators for these books are most often voice actors who have little to no detectible accent, unless a character calls for one, and who enunciate clearly and speak deeply with a strong tone. Kind of like the narrator from Twilight Zone!! In the evening when the streets are busy with the hustle and bustle of families arriving home after busy days, lawn mowers and yard equipment running, and children playing in the cul de sac enjoying the long days of the summer, the voice is not at all disturbing. But, in the silence of the morning, before it is dawn, having a stranger’s voice telling a story between your ears can be a bit disturbing. I make it a rule NOT to listen to any mystery or suspense books during my walks. And, sometimes, I press pause and look around to make sure no one is following me.
I enjoy waking up with the neighborhood. It is one of the things I miss most when the 3-Day has ended and the fall days become shorter, making it more difficult to get up and walk-or at least making it easier to just stay in bed. For those of you who blame the heat or the fact that you aren’t a “morning person” as an excuse not to get up and welcome the day with a 3-5 mile walk, I challenge you to give it a try. It is quite an adventure to say “Good Morning” to your neighborhood streets!
Hope your weekend is filled with Good Mornings! This weekend I will be at the beach with Valerie and Melissa and I am looking forward to a couple long, early morning walks (10 miles Saturday and 6 Sunday) without my canine companions, exploring some new neighborhoods and watching the sun come up over the ocean.