Wednesday, August 1, 2007

oh dieter

Yesterday morning my legs walked four beautiful hours out of the woods of Spruce Knob, West Virginia. Then Dieter, my car, drove four lovely hours back to Arlington, Virginia. The balance was fantastic; it's nice to appreciate the legs and the car.

Dieter and my legs and I have been out playing quite a lot recently, and today it was time to go to work. We headed west this morning, but about a half hour into our drive, Dieter whined a little bit as he stopped at a red light. When the light turned green, and I released the clutch, he stayed stopped. He didn't go anywhere at all, though a slightly smelly smell rose from beneath the hood. I sat staring at the green light and realized quite suddenly that Dieter and I are probably going to part soon. I was sad. Not angry, just sad.

I called AAA. They agreed to send out a tow truck to bring me and Dieter to the service station. I figured I would just walk the 2 miles home from the car repair shop. By the time the truck arrived, though, I didn't feel much like walking 2 miles. I felt like walking 15 miles. I fished an old, flimsy cloth backpack out of Dieter's trunk. I took the keys to my house and the yellow arrow keychain that usually lives on my car keys. I grabbed my camera, a water bottle, my phone, and my wallet.

I waved goodbye to Dieter on the tow truck and crossed the busy street to the shopping center. I found a coffee shop, and I asked directions to the W&OD--a rails to trails path nearby. As the clerk was drawing me a map, I looked in the pastry case and saw a chocolate croissant. I bought one, and I smiled a big knowing grin as I started on my way. The first chocolate croissant I've eaten in Virginia. A happy omen.

The trail was a straight, flat, black ribbon of pavement sewn with threads of power lines. For most of the day, it was just me and the asphalt. Occasionally there were office parks or houses backing up to the trail or small ponds or soccer fields. Mostly it was just the strip of trail, foliage on either side, and the sun above me.

It was hot. Baking, mid-90's, sweltering, egg frying, pick your cliche hot. My dress was soaked through. I didn't care. My feet complained a little that I was wearing sandals instead of hiking boots. My thighs complained a little that I was wearing a cocktail dress instead of shorts. I didn't care. The temperature, the discomfort of my physical injuries, the work I hadn't done today, my impending car purchase. They didn't matter. I was walking. That's what mattered.

I ate fresh blackberries from the side of the trail. I marvelled as I walked over the Beltway. I watched cars. I watched baby deer. I watched baby bunnies. I watched the metro. I indulged in the food I had fantasized about in Spain. Chipotle! Robeks! Real ice cream! Ice water!

I've never experienced a runner's high, but I think I feel something similar while walking. It doesn't matter how hot or how rainy or how miserable it is or how uncomfortable I am, there is some magic in moving my body for long periods of time. I crave it. When I got to Arlington, 7 sweaty hours later, I could have kept walking. Now that I've started shopping for a car, I sort of wish I had.

1 comment:

Sam said...

this may be my favorite post of all your posts - even your spain posts. i don't know why.