Quiet Morning Walk

Friday, August 29, 2008 -- near Three Lakes, MI

I paused during my walk this morning, something I don't like to do as I've always heard pausing a workout reduces the aerobic benefits and the training effect. But I had to stop. I can't remember when I last had this experience.

During the past week or so, I've been trying to get myself back into my old routine of early morning exercise. And I've been pretty diligent about it so far, having crawled out of bed, slithered sleepily into T-shirt, shorts, and shoes, and stepped boldly into the fresh morning air for 7 of the past 8 days. I used to run but my creaky knees don't respond well to the pounding anymore. So I've convinced myself that, really, I can get all the aerobic exercise I need by walking. Not a slow stroll down the garden path... oh no.  I like to walk fast... at least 4 mph and sometimes faster... and do it for the better part of an hour. Throw in a few hills and the old ticker is really beating away. The semi-pained smile on my face is the result of a mental image of arterial sludge from last night's brownie delight desert dissolving -- melting -- away.

This morning's walk felt immediately different from the others this week. Stepping outside, I became aware of the stillness of the morning. A layer of morning fog was hovering overhead, in the treetops, but I could see clearly at ground level. This vaporous canopy seemed to muffle the sounds of the woods and the surrounding world. There was no wind, none. It was dead-calm. There was no traffic, none. My own footsteps on the asphalt were deafening and seemed to pollute the natural silence of the place and the moment. There's an urge to stop, just for a moment, and savor this experience. No, that would lessen the benefit of my doing this in the first place, wouldn't it? But how often does one notice and experience complete, nearly total, silence? Com'on, just stop, right here, in the middle of the road... you can do it!

So I did. I stopped right there, standing on the centerline of Petticoat Road, and heard nothing. Nothing! Ears attuned to sounds generated by people and civilization don't hear the sounds of nature without some effort. Slowly, as I stood there, I began to hear my own heartbeat. Then a flutter of wings as a bird moved. The canopy of fog which I first thought was muffling all sounds was now seeming to amplify the occasional nearby sounds of nature. There was the thunderous crack of a twig snapping in the woods -- maybe a deer taking a cautious step. Then, more birds greeting the morning. I made a small slow step forward -- that urge to keep going for exercise's sake -- and my knee creaked. In the spaces between those various small sounds, there was as total a silence as I've ever heard. A nearly complete and utter lack of any sound whatsoever.

We're conditioned, I believe, to be in awe of the really big things -- fireworks get bigger and louder, amusement park rides get higher and faster, Hollywood keeps us coming back to the next film by making the explosions bigger, the car crashes more dramatic... you get the idea. But this morning I was in awe of the littlest thing you can imagine... silence.

T
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