Sunday, March 25, 2007

Early spring walks: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Friday I decided it was warm enough to declare "first shorts-wearing day of the season." It was a little overcast, so the potential for my exposed pallid limbs to frighten the wildlife seemed slim. Time to take a walk along the river. Wearing shorts seemed like a good thing, and I started a mental tick list of all the fine reasons to be out walking on such a day. Before I made it back home, wearing shorts became a not-so-bright-idea-culminating-in-near-disastrous-idea.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I just came in from another fine early spring walk (no shorts, it snowed yesterday and the wind is chilly today), during which I spent a lot of time thinking about how and why I walk the same route day after day. I've no doubt it's a topic that will get greater attention soon, but for today let's just start with that list of early-season pros and cons:

Good: Red-winged blackbirds in an uproar.
Bad: Clouds of midges. Breathe only through the nose, and do not inhale deeply.
Good: The arrival of tree swallows- can everything else be far behind?
Bad: Time to say goodbye to the winter duck party on Sands Lake.
Good: Ice-free paths, so watching feet not necessary. (*See the Ugly, below.)
Bad: Defrosted dog poop hard to see on those same ice-free paths.
Good: Scolding chipmunks.
Bad: Personal temperature regulation. (Jacket on, jacket off, jacket on, jacket off.)
Good: Increased dawdling potential.
Bad: Work behavior decreases in direct relationship to rise in dawdling potential.
Good: Who wants to work all the time anyway?
Good (and probably the best): That feeling of waking winter-dormant knowledge: Whose song is that? What plant will that green sprout become? When should I look for catbirds? Where will the fox spend sunny afternoons? When will the river turn brown and muddy... and how high will it rise? Will the wild iris come up in the same place? There's a new sense of expectation to a walk just now... because the potential for surprise is high. This territory has been familiar but slow to change for the past few months, and now all bets are off.

As for the Ugly bit... that happened on Friday, and is related to Good Item #3.

At Frantz Lake there are small wooden footbridges over a ditch that runs along the path. I've crossed them hundreds of times. But on Friday I was looking up, not down, when I crossed, and I didn't notice the missing board. At least not until I fell through.

Please recall that I was wearing shorts.

So now my winter-white legs are also sporting red raspberry scrapes and lovely purple bruises. But I didn't break anything, neither on my person nor in my pockets. I did, perhaps, crack my pride ("some observant person YOU are"), but it's better than cracking my head. And I certainly got a surprising new view of my usual route. Welcome spring!


  1. I'm laughing and wincing in equal measures here. And there's a hint of phew!-it's-not-just-me-then.

  2. Always glad to provide both humor and.. well... relief? It's a dubious camaraderie, but we identify our clan whatever way we can, eh?