Sunday, March 08, 2009


cotuit, originally uploaded by patryfrancis.

“The world belongs to the energetic.” For several years, I had this quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson taped inside a cabinet door. It didn’t say much about the kind of person I am (the kind who plans to undertake all kinds of ambitious projects...right after I have a cup of tea and think about it.) But it spoke volumes about the kind I’ve always wanted to be. (In high school, they’re described as “vivacious.”)

Eventually the quote inside my cabinet yellowed and the tape curled and disinegrated, but my optimism remained undaunted. One of these days, I would live the Emersonian ideal. I would stop reading books about how to stop procrastinating, and become a woman of action. I would spend less time reading poetry and more time cleaning the closet! Directing my own films! Opening a soup kitchen! The dreams varied, but the battle cry remained the same. I would!

Then a couple of weeks ago, I was reading the “Vows” column in the New York Times (a wedding column that doesn’t tell doesn’t focus on the the ceremony or the accomplishments of the couple but on their story.) In this particular installment, the new husband described his wife as someone who was “firing on all twelve cylinders.” The phrase hit the same “inspiration nerve” that Emerson had touched years ago. Immediately, I leaped up from the couch and began to sprint around the house like the bride in “Vows” would have done if she suddenly found herself inhabiting my life.

“What’s wrong with Mom?” my son, Jake, wondered.

“Don’t worry; she’ll get over it soon,” Ted said confidently.

Hmmph...I snorted, attacking the closet. I’d show him. Shortly thereafter, my body reminded me of its problems (those complications from complications I wrote about earlier) and I collapsed on the couch. Time for a cup of tea to contemplate the 12 cylinder lifestyle I would soon adopt...I might be a lttle tired today, but tomorrow? I would get up at five. I would channel the vivacious girls from high school and the souped-up bride from "Vows"...I could already hear those cylinders gearing up in the distance.

If we’re limited by the past or by fate or the more mysterious aspects of our DNA, I I guess that means I’ll always a four-cylinder economy vehicle, never the muscle car that owns the road (and according to Emerson, the world.) But I haven’t quite accepted that yet.

walking, mar 7, 2009

So about a month ago, I somehow wandered into a blog called Thirty Minutes A Day on Foot in which the writer chronicles his daily walks. What inspired me was that he didn’t just walk, he explored. I leaped off the couch (yes, I do that regularly) but only after I’d left a comment, proclaiming myself his first disciple.

Now I suppose if I were firing on all 12 cylinders, the next step would have involved putting on my shoes, or something radical like that. But instead, I spent a month thinking of the places I would explore, the friends, family members and animals who might accompany me. Should I buy a pedometer first? A birding book maybe? Obviously, this wasn’t something I could jump into without some serious planning. (Cue the tea kettle.)


It took a month, but yesterday my daughter and the hint-of-spring weather, inspired me to make good on the plan. I went at my own pace, allowing my daughter and the dog to alternately walk and jog ahead of me at theirs, and I spent 32 minutes on foot exploring a new area. Like the source of my inspiration, I timed myself; also like him, I counted “stranger hellos” which strikes me as a significant thing to measure. (We got two.) And I paid attention in new ways. Though I’m not much of a naturalist, in that I don’t know the names of more than the garden variety birds or plants, I was inspired to find things out.

beer tasting

I discovered, for instance, that the body of water at the end of the road we followed was called Cotuit Bay, that ivy blooms in snow, and that there’s such a thing as a beer tasting. (Who says I’m not a naturalist?) Of course, if I really was one of the energetic people who own the world, I might have even come back and checked it out. But as it was, I just went home and thought about it.