It’s still dark in the morning when the alarm goes off at 5:10 and I rarely hesitate before throwing back the covers to step over the doggo and find my way to the closet. If I’m lucky, I’ll avoid the Yack Star, who will want to eat, and actually make it downstairs with two shoes that go together. Navigating the stairs in the dark is scary enough to have to feel my way along the wall, making sure I land solidly on each step.
Still not quite sure I’m awake, I glance at the clock and notice that only a few minutes have passed, so I pause long enough to grab a glass of water. My heart is pounding as I reach for my car key and wallet, hit the garage door button and fall into the driver’s seat. I cautiously back out, and head to my friend’s house, sometimes not quite realizing that I’m not still under the covers, snug and sleeping soundly.
I never know if she’ll be awake when I arrive and so use the sloping curb of her driveway to stretch my stiff calves while I wait. Once in a while, the elderly man who lives across the street comes out, wanting to know who I am. He’s just being a good neighbor. But since my friend and I have gotten back into the swing of things, she’s been up and ready to go. I’ve not had time to even consider whether I’ll be brave enough to tap on the glass next to her front door, hoping she’ll hear me, and causing her dogs to bark.
We start out with her loping yellow Lab each morning, barely awake, and it seems the first point of discussion is food. Often it’s more of a confessional, with comments like, “I wasn’t very good yesterday,” or “My husband looked at me and said, ‘Wine?'” Other times our talk is about which recipes we’ve tried. Somehow it makes getting up and over those hills much more easy.
There’s something soothing walking that early in the day. The annoyance of cars leaving for work or taking kids to school comes much later, and except for the occasional ghostly shadow of someone who has ventured out to retrieve their morning paper, we see no one. Hear almost nothing beyond the rustle of some small animal in the ivy, or the soft hooting of an owl somewhere high up in the eucalyptus trees.
We’ve improved our route time by about six minutes even though we haven’t worked to do that. And only one incline continues to kick our butts, even though we’ve figured out that if we’re absorbed in a conversation, our minds don’t linger on the agony of lungs stinging for air or bodies gravity insists upon keeping close to the asphalt.
As we approach the end of our route and the last rise, I feel the air change. It’s warm, and hints of the weather we’re to have this weekend — sunny and near 80 on the coast. For a moment, I think of summer and all that comes with it.
By the time we return to the starting point, the sky is much lighter, and I drive home knowing that I’ve done something good for myself. We’ve walked about 16 miles since Sunday and I smile, acknowledging that it’s not bad for two well-seasoned chicks. I make plans for my day — not strict plans, though, because it’s Friday and I don’t have to do anything if I don’t feel like it.
But I do feel like it. I feel like continuing to think carefully about what I eat. I feel like finding a place for my mom to live when she returns to Paradise from her non adventure on the Wrong Coast. I feel like cleaning my house, and planting some flowers, and lining up what I’ll be cooking this weekend.
And I feel like spending time with the MoH who has been putting in 15-hour days. With any luck at all, I’ll actually get to see him. It puts a dent in my style when he’s not around.
Maybe I’ll bake something with dark chocolate.
It’s loaded with antioxidants, you know.