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.


Anonymous said...

Ah, Patry, my dear, I am so glad you are you and willing to explore whatever that may be at this moment. Life is a series of moments to luxuriate in and write down for those of us who have come to love you. May your open heart continue to inspire us all. Thanks for this new posting and the lovely glimpse of your days.
Ancient Reader

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Patry,
How wonderful to read of your warming up all those cylinders to culminate in this lovely walk. Amazing what we can see, discover and find in a mere 32 minutes. The hardest part is putting on the shoes and walking out the door. The beer tasting discovery would be fantastic! Have a lovely day.

musingwoman said...

It's always wonderful to see a new post by you pop up in my reader. Your 32 minutes sounded lovely.

Ric said...

Ah, spring fever strikes. The rising sap in the maples brings the same effect in everything. Dogs bounce higher, birds sing louder, and we humans at last feel the urge to rise from the couch, firing on all cylinders.
So happy you're up and about.

Anonymous said...

It looks as though you are making your way post at a time.

Personally, I have a procrastinating nature...good ideas, great quotes to live by, exemplary living examples call out to me while I think and plan and dream. Someday when waiting is complete...I, too, will.

I love the photo's with this post...keep exploring.

debra said...

One step, one breath at a time, yes?
It is like that I think. Time to not just look, but truly see. These are blessings.

Anonymous said...

If you didn't go home and think about things after you've done them, you wouldn't be half the writer you are! It's a very fine balance.

Anonymous said...

I've always thought you can't beat "firing on all four" for alliteration. Plus, as an environmentalists, that's the kind of car I'd have if I had a car. There are all kinds of good reasons to be a low-power vehicle.

floots said...

the main thing is to keep chasing the horizon
be it twelve cylinders
four cylinders
two legs
one mind (and if you're thinking about beer tasting then i hope that means you're feeling "'ale" and hearty) :)

robin andrea said...

Yes, yes! Four-cylinder gals move through the world quite well and make the best observations. Moving slowly and looking around is a way to see more about what's going on all around you. If you move too fast, you miss the chickadee on a low branch, the first hint of spring color in an otherwise wintry field, the soft light of a late afternoon sun. All these things and more in a half hour walk. The world lives and breathes second to second.

Here's another "stranger" hello and a smile on the path.

Patry Francis said...

Ancient Reader: Thank you. I'm not sure how you found me, but it doesn't seem that long ago that you left your first "stranger hello" here Since then, your thoughtful insights and your unfailing kindness have erased any sense of strangerhood. Isn't it amazing when that happens?

Ruahines: It doesn't much rival your the visions you bring back from your hikes, but I guess that's the point. See your world, no matter how humble. Who knows? You might even discover a new beer. Aroha to you.

musing: Another stranger hello who became a friend. Though we've never met, it feels as if we've come through so much together.

Ric: It feels great to be up leaping with the dogs and the maple sap. Maybe I've really left the horrible and the miserable behind?

Oh Gary, it sounds like we have a lot in common. But I kind of knew that anyway. Thanks for sharing your four-cylinder musings.


Anonymous said...

That Emerson quote for me reads as a lament. Oh, if only the world belonged to the quiet, the peaceful, the slow, methodical, meditative, contemplative bodies who populate it so much less obviously but perhaps more carefully, lovingly, and considerately. I am convinced that, although we are less obvious, we are in the majority, and an achievement as simple as growing a tomato plant or making a home-cooked meal matters.

Anonymous said...

What a terrific walk (and thank you for the link to thirty minutes a day on foot.) I'm about to put on my tennis shoes, leave my office and walk toward the San Francisco Bay. And I'll be paying attention, like you. Spring's coming, isn't it??! xoxo

Lisa said...

What a lovely post. I'm finding that the smaller I make my goals, the more I enjoy the walk, the book, the cup of tea. There's something happening here. So wonderful to read your words. xo

Allie said...

I always need to make a cup of tea first too. If all of us were firing on 12 cylinders, we'd burn way way way too much fuel. And there's so much value, I think, in having a more meditative existence. We need a good mix of both types and the full spectrum in between.

Aimee said...

I always wanted to be one of those explorer type people. But, I am a creature of habit and a coffee think about doing things-er. I take the same path, know the people on the path and rarely ever stray. Sigh. I'm boring. Beer tastings are dangerous...I did one in New Orleans and found myself wasted.

Anonymous said...

I love this post, Patry, so full of joy and energy and hope and dreams. Keep on doing what you do!

Lorna said...

You've been firing on all twelve cylinders, in all the ways that can be done, for as long as I've read you here. And the walk sounded so satisfying!

Anonymous said... so...tired...after reading ... this ...

Send some of that energy my way, Patry. OK, I'm going out for a walk right now, at 11:27 p.m. It's a gorgeous night. Thanks for the inspiration.

Patry Francis said...

debra: I feel calmer just reading your words. Yes, a blessing.

Mary: Thanks for the good words. I suppose that we writers are by nature introspective. Most days, in spite of Emerson's injunction, I wouldn't have it any other way.

Dave: I was thinking of that...whether the cars we drive are metaphors for our personal style. I've always favored the functional, efficient small car--though these days, like you I'm "firing on no cylinders" when it comes to transportation.

floots: Thanks for the poem. These days I'm favoring two legs and my mind.

Oh Robin, you stopped being a stranger a long time ago. When I first found Thirty MInutes a Day on Foot, I immediately thought of you, and Roger and your brilliant observations from the path.

More later...this low cylinder woman is going to bed.

Anonymous said...

I was laughing last night thinking about your leaps off the couch. I know those leaps. I know those closets. And I know several of those 12-cylinder people. A lot to deal with. I like the sound of those walks best of all.

Anonymous said...

My kindred cuz, I'm a four cylinder model too. The difference is that for the most part I have learned (been forced to) accept it.

Recently in a woman's dialogue group I belong to, I proclaimed myself a Wild Thing, meaning that I was starting to live like a creature, doing only hat I found myself doing, with no more "practices" and no longer trying to better myself in any way. In this more primitive state I have reverted back to that one walk, exploring like, would be quite an accomplishment.

I have had fantasies of walking El Camino like Shirley McClaine. I didn't like the new age stuff in that book of the same name, but I was keyed into every thing about her walking pilgrimage. I also loved Bill Bryson's Walk in the Woods so much that it inspired Joe and I to hike the Appalachian Trail. Four days was long enough for this tea drinker thinker.

Anonymous said...

Is there somewhere where we can get more cylinders?
Now you're inspiring me. What beautiful scenery you found on your walk! I think I'll put on my shoes - um, right after the tea's done...
(between your, Emerson's and the Thirty Minute Walker's inspiration, maybe I'll actually make it around the block ;-)

Anonymous said...

Great post!I think you do way more than you are telling us.I never feel I do enough either. Your walk sounds wonderful :-). Thank you, Patry for your lovely comment on my blog.

Patry Francis said...

dampscribbler: Maybe Emerson should have listened to his friend Thoreau more: "Live each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each."

Lily: Spring, like so much else in life, surprises me every time no matter . Warm air? Green shoots? What a fabulous idea!

Enjoy that walk by the bay.

Lisa: Any woman who read as many books as you did (including Proust, no less) is firing on many cylinders. You are my idol!

Allie: You've got it right. We need both kinds of people. And sometimes we need to BE both types of people.

Aimeepalooza: Walking the same path over and over has its merits, too. I think we're moving away from the mentality that says you have to see, consume, and own the whole world toward a sense of inhabiting our own small space. Wasn't that what Thoreau was all about? Obviously, I've bee thinking about him a lot lately. Looks like it's time to get out that old worn copy of Walden and re-read it.

marja-leena: I've never been to Vancouver, but the other night I dreamed I was there...walking. It was wonderful! Thanks for the lovely comment.


Right now I'm going to bed so I can get up at 5 a.m.
.. I never give up.

Zhoen said...

Mostly, I'm a two stroke scooter. And I often run out of gas. Still, I get done what I need to get done.

I do love to emulate the cat, and conserve energy.

Melanie Margaret said...

Hey soul sister! I loved this. this is me too. I think and then I think some more. I became frustrated with myself in my twenties...every journal entry I asked "when will I move from words into action" but now...
I am content.
lets go walking sometime soon!
maybe some Saturday morning you can come with me and Ethan and Maggie to the nature center in Sandwhich. Lots to explore there!
Take care of yourself!

Patry Francis said...

Lorna: Thank you so much. Your words meant a lot. If there's any time when I really want to fire up my cylinders, it's when I write.

Kevin Watson! So good to see you here. There's nothing like a night walk under the stars. NC must be gorgeous at midnight in March.

Susan: I was actually thinking of you on my walk--especially when I passed the inevitable litter. (Not my usual association with you, of course!) Since I love to count things, I thought that next time I wouldn't just count stranger hellos and minutes spent, I would bring a trash bag and count what I picked up. Thanks for the inspiration. It might have taken me a while to put it into practice, but I had to think about it for a couple of years before I actually did it.

Colleen: Thanks for identifying our tribe--the tea drinker thinkers. I was particularly struck by your resistance--no refusal--to live like a creature. Or ONLY like a creature.

tinker: I only wish you were closer so we could put on our shoes and explore together. P.S. Save some of your energy. Gardening season is right around the corner!

Annie: Having more to do when you go to bed at night, more yet when you get up in the morning isn't entirely a bad thing. I enjoyed seeing your beautiful pottery.

zhoen: Getting done what needs to be done, then having time to emulate the cat...sounds like perfect balance to me.

Melba: I'm not sure I've ever been there, but if I was, it was a long time ago. It would be doubly wonderful to see it through EThan and Maggie's eyes. Yes, let's do it!

rdl said...

We are definitely the 4 cylinder type! but ain't nothin wrong with that! :D I can't wait to walk with you - after my damn knee heals. I fell on it at the beginning of a walk while staring at a pelican! Thank g-d for rum!

rdl said...

but Lorna is right - definitely all 12 are firing when you write!
I think i only had 2 or 3 firing today; tho i did manage to get 2 loads of laundry done, even if i didn't get everything put away.

Becca said...

This post certainly made me smile, for I saw myself reflected here in so many ways.

I love walking outdoors, but so often tread the same path daily. Thanks for inspiring me to set a different course next time!

Russell CJ Duffy said...

I went walking recently, having taken the adive of Mister Emerson, and spent the day pacing through the Essex countryside to where Jaime Oliver's (if you know who I mean) relatives have a pub. I went walking for two reasons.

1. Research for my book.
2. To lose thos AX-mas inches and
3. (Did I say two?) Because I wanted to.

The outward journey was fantastic. Passing those ancient Tudor houses and the flat marsh lands of where I was born. I stopped for lunch at a pub called The Plough and Sail and, feeling like a Hobbit, ordered a sandwich. It was chilly, the day not the sandwich, but nice enough and so, after a pleasant half hour sitting I took the road back home. It didn't just rain, it came down like iron rods. When I finally arrived home I looked very much like the proverbial drowned rat.
I think, were it possible, I would shoot Mister Emerson.

NoVA Dad said...

I love this - I am what I suppose you could call a twelve-cylinder thinker (which is why I can't shut my mind off to sleep at night), but have a problem getting the cylinders moving. I'm well beyond the time where I've needed to get a personal tune-up to get things moving again, and instead keep knocking around like one of those cars on an AAMCO commercial. Your post has certainly inspired me to try and get moving again; after a long day at work each day, it's hard, but as my wife (rightfully) argues, "That's no excuse!" Hope you're doing well:-)

Laura Benedict said...

Patry, this made me laugh! I love the image of you hopping off the couch in search of a new adventure.

I've started writing down the things that appeal instantly to me and put them beside my life as it is to see how they might fit. Then I get caught up in just living--taking 10 minutes to play Wii with Bengal, or drinking tea, or writing a new chapter--and find that seeing the first bluebird of spring (yesterday!) can make my day complete.

I love the photos you took on your walk. And how fun to walk in a new place. Hope you have many, many new hellos from strangers on your next one! xo

Kay Cooke said...

I feel guilty now for opting not to go on a walk today. However, I do walk a 45 min. walk home and or / to work every day ... so a day off is probably allowed. I do love walking tho' I wish my walks weren't as purposeful as they are, and that I had more time to let my mind wander and note more things.
Enjoy your walks and I am looking forward to your reports on what you've noted.

LitPark said...

Adore you, Patry.

Lubna said...

Hello Patry,
I do not know how I landed on your blog - sometimes messages come from strangers. Yes, you healed me. Hope you are gaining strength and getting better day by day.

Anonymous said...

Patry, it's such a thrill to know you are not only better but positively chomping at the bit - I mean, leaping off the couch intermittently to fire up all those cylinders. I love the daily 30-minute walk project - I too get very excited when hearing of such endeavors. In fact I think I'll start walking the walk too. Tomorrow. Or rather, today, since it's now 3AM of what is not quite yet tomorrow.
Sending you lots of love.

Anonymous said...

Love the fact that you have proof that ivy grows in snow. Love the idea of walking each day for 32 minutes. I just may have to borrow that. Maybe tomorrow. :-) Wishing you all the best Patry.

i beati said...

Interesting look at how life looks to us ..I have trouble stringing an hour or two together.But like you , I shall not miss life and its eccentricities..sandy

Beryl Singleton Bissell said...

Patry. Do you have a bit of the Irish in you? Certainly it's a fine tale you've told here, one that has me laughing out loud. So, 12 cylinders is it? Oh, by the way, I once wrote a column in which I suggested that in my next life I would come back as a naturalist. A naturalist wrote back and get this Patry, she told me that I could be a naturalist simply by observing the changes in a small patch of my own property. Which means you see, that you can walk out your front door and say "Hey there sweet patch. What you up to today?" and you won't even have to leave your yard.

Amber said...

Oh man, this made me smile. Because I saw myself in it! So.Much. And I had to wonder, are you a Virgo? Some kind of earth sign, huh? I bet. lol

But then I also found myself saying, SHE WROTE A NOVEL. Hellllo? That is something most of those girl in high school have never done.

Anonymous said...

Your post made me laugh. It reminded me of the words of a wise friend, who once told me, "There is such a thing as too much thinking."

After a bit of protesting that I actually didn't think TOO much, I nodded and said, "Yeah, you're right."

Thanks for the reminder. :-)

paris parfait said...

I too, often think of firing on all 12 cylinders, but I get exhausted after about 7 or 8. A couple of days ago I went for a three-mile walk carrying heavy camera gear and thought I would collapse by the time I got home - my legs were fine, it was my shoulders suffering from the camera gear. I'm happy to see you've taken that walk and discovered new things - and written about it all, so fetchingly, as we say in the South. :) xo

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Patry,
I am getting ready to head out into the mountains for 4 days and for some reason a thought of you, and this post came to mind. Hope you are well and I shall think of you while up there cloud hidden! Kia kaha.

leslee said...

I've never been the energetic sort, except in short bursts that serve more to exhaust than sustain. More like an old car with a mis-set idle. Thanks for link to Thirty Days on Foot - lots of inspiration for walks! Good healing to you - hope the spring brings you growing energy.

Carleen Brice said...

Yeah, I fire on about 3 or 4 cylinders at a time myself. I'm trying to learn that's good enough, but I usually can't stay awake long enough to get the lesson! :)

MB said...

Some wouldn't even think about it, Patry. You think clear and deep.

donny said...

I'm glad I stumbled across your blog. Nice writing. I'll look forward to trickling through your musings... thanks for posting them.

Vesper said...

Patry, thank you for visiting my blog and leaving your kind wishes there.

I must tell you how deeply this post has touched me. I recognise so much of myself in it...

Your photography is just wonderful.

ainelivia said...

Just a flying visit to let you know that I've moved to Blogspot. Now at

Hope things are good with you and you had a relaxing Easter

Annie said...

Just checking to say hi. Miss you and hope you are doing well.xoxo

Annie said...

Patry, there is an awrd on my blog for you! xoxo

Anil P said...

Firing on all cylinders is something I use often for the spring energy it indicates, bright and cheery like spring sunshine.

I could identify with many things in your post.

Starting out becomes easier if we do not look too far beyond the 'starting out'.

Mary Sheehan Winn said...

Patry, dearest, how are you?
I checked Liar's Diary out of the Library, here in Naples, and read it again. When I returned it, I asked the librarian if they could display it on the tabletop displays, and they DID!
Hope you are better.

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

I like how you write, and how you see the world. With spring comes some hope, and the promise of better days! I hope to read more of your walking adventures soon. I haven't been here in a while and I'm glad I made my way back.

tinker said...

How are your cylinders? ;)
Just wanted to stop by, let you know I'm thinking of you, and say

Deborah said...

Ok Patry, this blog post is my first introduction to you and your writing. I have to say I feel like I'm looking in the mirror - the body complications warring against my young, energetic mind; the inspiration motivating leaps and bounds - wow! If you're on Twitter, I'm going to tweet this post. (@debwriter)

I found you, btw, through in the bloggers section of this week's most visited pages.

I am excited to see what new things your adventures bring you to.

gulnaz said...

oh Patry you are delightful!!!

procrastination is something i suffer from too but you are a dreamer and an energetic dreamer ;)

JP/deb said...

Dear Patry,

The mind, heart and soul are clearly firing on all twelve cylinders!

Body - well - many of us struggle with that one!

JP/deb said...

Great post thanks