Tonight I went for a walk to the grocery store. Just the regular ol’ neighborhood Lucky, where fluorescent lighting glares, the cashiers are all union, the clerks and baggers all have special needs, but their customer service is extra special. I needed to get the most mundane of items: ant traps, insecticide, and some paper towels. I have a lot of ants to kill, so I could have driven and disposed of this task in 15 minutes instead of 45, but I wanted to walk. I needed to walk.
Since my injury odyssey started over a year ago and I have been unable to run or hike regularly, I have been in a kind of mild mourning. Perhaps I have just been giving my focus to trying to diagnose and heal my body, but I think I have been sad too about losing the routine that brings me so much joy and balance and clarity and vitality. (Losing Duke in March also compounded my detachment from how much I truly love a regular walk or run… it just felt terribly lonely without him or Rocco. I am healing from their loss.) But tonight, after having a really good cry over this tender and funny remembrance of Tony Gwynn by Keith Olbermann, I laced up my shoes, threw my debit card and house key in a well-worn Lululemon bag and headed to the grocery store.
I live in a little town, among several other little towns, that are all part of the near-idyllic Marin County. I like my little town; there is still a bit of plain charm and a lack of pretension that balances out the Tesla people and their unvaccinated children wearing $200 sneakers. The Lucky is the epicenter of plain and normal and humble, the living example of what politicians strain to describe in endless stump speeches.
It was a hot night, fitting for only a few days from the start of summer. I decided to walk on the main road rather than the bike and running path so I could walk through town. I passed the baseball field where families were packing kids up after practices, and boys were still playing ball with shouts of, “No! Then we are adding another rule! You can’t do it like that!” I walked past the Presbyterian church, no crowd of smokers on a break from the AA meeting. I smiled at my favorite house and pretended I lived there. I thought of how Duke and Rocco stopped in certain spots to pee on this route. I got to the redwood stand where a historic restaurant is undergoing repairs from a fire a few months ago. I made a mental note to find out when they will be re-opening. I got to a crush of people outside the very popular pizza place, little girls doing dances to songs they mumbled to themselves, moms pulling them by the arm out of my way. I stopped to meet a very sweet dog, who let me scratch her back and licked my face in gratitude. I went past the library, the fire department, the Catholic church and its thrift store, the hair salon, the dive bar, the empty space where the original gift shop/stationery store/office supply local once stood. There were workers painting the facade of the Italian bakery. I could smell the paint and turpentine. It reminded me of my dad’s jobs sites. I cut through a parking lot, deliberately walking on a patch of dirt and grass in a diagonal from the sidewalk to the next walking path, because it shows love to your town when you use her shortcuts. I got to the Lucky and was greeted by a clerk with a big smile and an aura of confidence in his job. It made me happy.
I found the insecticide aisle. I took my time reading the ant killer ingredients and claims of effectiveness, made my selections based on promises of highest insect death count, and headed to the cashier. The woman in front of me had olive oil. I needed olive oil too! I gathered my items off the conveyer and went to grab the oil, and when I got back the line was two deep. I was behind an older man wearing a lot of Disney paraphernalia: a jacket – covered in buttons and pins, a hat – covered in buttons and pins, and he paid for his frozen dinners out of a ziplock bag filled with cash. Rather than feel sad or sorry for him, I decided to listen to what he was telling the cashier and the clerk. He needed the plastic bag please because his Disney bag was full, including new books, and that he was reading H.G. Wells ‘The Time Machine” and “The War of the Worlds” again rather than just watch the Disney videos he likes so much. Reading is good for you. The woman behind me was wearing a “Low Density Marin” tee-shirt, sensible capri pants, and purple nail polish on her toes. I was glad she was working on keeping Marin sustainably growing.
My walk home was also lovely. At one point I could hear a clicking noise in the trees and thought it might be crickets, but when I stopped to look and listen, I discovered it was dried seed pods falling to the ground, clattering all the way down. This also made me happy. I walked back past the baseball field, a sweet little school, and on to the shortcut stairs to my street. I walked up my hill, with a fair amount of effort, being as out-of-fitness as I am. It felt so good.
I was happy.
I am happy.