When I first moved here, I joined the gym because, well, everyone tells you joining a gym is a good thing, and it wasn’t very expensive, and it was only a block away from my house. Like most people, I went pretty regularly for a while, and then I think there was a span of about a year and a half where I paid my monthly dues and never darkened the door. Finally, I quit (which I’d been avoiding because I didn’t want to tell them that I was quitting), and I started walking the dogs in the morning instead.
I bought a little belt pedometer, and figured out that from my door to the dog park and back is two miles. Two miles seems to be my magic number. If I walk two miles a day, I can eat pretty much whatever I want, keep in shape, and feel good in that endorphiny kind of way. So in the morning I take the dogs, walk the ten blocks to the dog park through the lovely, cool, early-morning streets. I get to see what’s growing in other people’s gardens; I pet the nice brown dog that belongs to the Very Old Man and I usually peek through his front window to make sure he’s in his chair; and every few days I run into my friend Anna in her front yard.
When we get to the dog park there’s a nice cool walk along the creek, with all those pleasant creek sounds. Some mornings there’s wildlife, like the owl we saw last week, or the pelicans that cruised by just below the level of the bluff earlier this summer. In the winter, there’s a pair of bald eagles who fish the river, cruising upstream, then picking up the thermal over the high bluffs on the far side. Right now there’s also a sweet chestnut foal in the horse pasture on the far side of the creek, and it was at the dog park where I met most of the people who have become my closest friends here. We’ll check in with one another, exchange the news, watch the dogs romp and go back to our little home offices for another day.
And then I walk back home, through the same morning-quiet streets and make a little breakfast. I’ve gotten out. I’ve gotten some exercise (as have the dogs, who just maybe won’t bark so much during the day if they’ve run off a little energy), and I’m ready to start another day. The gym was fine, but I never came home from 45 minutes on the treadmill feeling that I’d seen anything beautiful, or smelled water running in a creek, or even had a nice morning chat with one of my friends. Whereas if I can get over my own laziness, put on my shoes early, and get outside with the dog, I can keep in shape, keep up my friendships, and remind myself that I live in a beautiful place