“I Don’t Think We’re In Oregon Anymore” – a short walk through hell

My elderly neighbor thinks I’ve gone completely around the bend. She may be right.

Or it might be that I am trying to pretend that Oregon is NOT going through one of its hottest, driest summers ever.

Or, perhaps it’s because, when my legs tell me to walk, I must obey. Runners know what I’m talking about. They’re out there in sun, rain, snow, cyclones…simply doing what their exercise-conditioned bodies tell them.

MOVE. NOW. AT LEAST FIVE MILES.

So I will factor in all of these things while I decide if I’m on my way to Nutso-land, or just being physically fit.

It was a warmish afternoon, around 1:00pm, when I locked the door behind me and started on my route. I knew it was supposed to get warmer as the day progressed, but I didn’t realize it would zoom up quite as fast as it did.

The sky was a gorgeous, cloudless blue, and the sun beat down warmly as I stepped off the curb. The wind played with my hair, sashaying it across my upper arms and shoulders–just how I like it. I had opted to leave it down, letting it flow free, instead of putting it back in a pony tail.

Truth to tell, I don’t really mind the heat–as long as I’m not going in and out of air-conditioning. And as long as it isn’t humid. I was glad for the dryness of the air, because the virus I am currently carrying has shellacked my lungs, and I didn’t need more hindrance in breathing, thank you very much.

I passed a couple of girls sitting in the shade along the curb, smoking. Young things, their whole lives ahead of them. It blows my mind that, with what we know about lung cancer and cigarettes, that anyone would even start smoking. Yet they do.

I made the attempt myself, at age 15. Couldn’t inhale…tobacco.

I’m leaving that there.

But this is the observation I make, and I will say nothing more: Trying tobacco and hoping that you don’t get addicted is like kissing a rattlesnake on the nose and hoping you won’t get bit. That is all.

Now, I wasn’t entirely certain of where my feet were going to take me this day. There isn’t a main street in this town that I haven’t walked, and it’s figuring out new combinations that leaves me stumped at times. This day I decided to put in a new kink on an old trail–I would walk up to the middle school, and when I got to the nature trail behind it, I would go left, into Graham Oaks Nature Park, instead of right, which would merely take me into another neighborhood and back the way I came.

graham oaks

On a day like this one, there were few people out. I think I counted about five. One guy who passed me going the other way gave me an abashed smile as if to say, “Oh good, I’m not the only idiot out here in this heat.” Even the birds had pretty much given up singing about the day and were under cover, waiting for it to end.

There is no shade to speak of in the nature park. However, I was getting to where I was trying to avoid the shade anyway–it was too hard to get back out in the sun afterwards. Best to just stay cooking.

Halfway through my trek, which turned out to be 7 .5 miles, Nature changed. Or my perception of Her did. The sky was now a shade of merciless blue, out of which hammered the sun in all its fury–well, for Oregon standards, anyway. To you folks in 115+-degree weather who think I am a wimp, I say shut up. But in a most Christian way. Truly.

The wind was now a Pacific Northwest version of an Egyptian sirocco, which meant that its harlotry was over, and it had revealed itself for what it was: a dragon panting at my back, melting my once-carefree hair, which now hung like limp spaghetti down my back. At least that part of it which didn’t huddle wetly around my neck like cattle around a shade tree.

I passed schools, I passed parks, I passed many places where you would expect people to congregate. If there was no water involved, there was No. One. Around. Only people in their air-conditioned cars, driving past, wondering why anyone would be out there in the heat. I was beginning to wonder about that myself.

On my way home, I came across a young lady who was having car problems. I helped as much as I could, gave her moral support, talked with her for awhile, and cheered when her car started and she was on her way. Never a moment did I feel the heat while I was engaged in helping her. Funny how that works.

I was never so glad to see the park, with its water features, just a little over a mile from home. Not to mention the drinking fountain! I worked that fountain button as hard as I could–it was one of those set-ups where you’d have better luck lapping water up out of the basin–then surreptitiously stuck my leg in one of the cascading waterfalls in the water feature. There were a bazillion people there doing the same thing, so why not?

I started back on my last mile, and within three minutes, I kid you not, I was dry as a bone. This last distance I clung to the shade–I had had enough of the sun.

Passed the same two girls, on the same spot, with the ciggies.

It was at about this time that my neighbor spotted me.

“How many miles did you walk?” She knows me well.

“About 7.5.”

She rolls her eyes. “Where’s your water?”

“Didn’t take any. It gets warm and gross, and I finish it halfway anyway.”

The eye-roll again. “Well, get home and get some water in you.”

This I did. Some 60+ ounces. And I didn’t see the inside of a bathroom until 11:00pm that night. Guess I was a bit dehydrated…

I stayed in today. Tomorrow, at 7:30am, I will be joining a few others on another walk. Maybe I’ll take water this time. And my neighbor will have another eye-roll exercise, of this I am certain.

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