By Bruce Stambaugh
I love to walk outdoors. Treadmills don’t do it for me.
I guess I’m a multi-sensory walker. I need to exercise my listening, my observing, my sensing, my thinking as well as my muscles and my entire bony being.
Walking is an easy sport unless you’re a fair-weather walker. That’s me. I don’t do well in wet, windy, cold conditions.
My pickiness has its consequences, however. My body complains in multiple ways. My achy bones cry out in rebellion. My hamstrings tighten in protest. My soft tissue succumbs to gravity.
Other symptoms sneak up on you, tricking you into sullenness. Blood pressure is one of those conspirators.
All my life people would offer to buy my low blood pressure scores. I never fully appreciated the physicality of high blood pressure or the corrective medicinal ramifications. I do now.
Age apparently has caught up with me. At a routine check-up, my blood pressure was the highest it had ever been. Thinking it an anomaly, the nurse took it again. It went even higher.
I drove straight to the pharmacy and purchased a new digital wrist blood pressure cuff. My old manual one with the stethoscope had given up the ghost. I didn’t want to join it, so I began daily recordings of my blood pressure and pulse.
My good doctor tweaked my medication according to those results and my body’s physical reactions. I wasn’t ready for what followed. I hated the melancholy, lackadaisical feelings, the fuzziness and body fatigue, though I had done little physically.
I had a new appreciation for those with the same condition. I longed to return to my daily walks, but the weather was as uncooperative as my new pills. I brooded beneath the seemingly perpetual steel gray Ohio sky.
Then, a week after the last snow, spring broke through. Daffodils sprang back. Spring beauties and phlox carpeted woodlots and pastures. The season’s first tulip brightened our yard. It was time to walk again.
The warmth alone drew me outside. I was in heaven again once I got past the roadside dead deer decaying in a woodlot south of our house. When I turned onto the little township road, I hit my stride.
I crested the first knob, and my favorite valley opened before me. The gently undulating and curving road reflected the morning sun. The road resembled a silver ribbon as it ran through the vale beyond the comely farms and up and over the eastern hill that separates one watershed from the other.
The birds rejoiced with me. A dozen species regaled and entertained me with song and their territorial acrobatics. I rejoiced in the many varieties of the spring birds that had returned to mingle with the year-round residents.
At the halfway mark, the stream gurgled its own refreshing tune, too, though it hadn’t rained for days. The artesian well ran strong into the roadside trough. The willow tree teased yellow with its drooping canopy of leafy buds.
When I reached the little rise at the first farm, a familiar fragrance freshened the morning air. An invigorating mix of soap and cotton wafted all the way to the road from a recently hung line of laundry.
A few more steps and purple martins greeted me with salient salutations and arching flyovers. In contrast, the one-room Amish school stood silent, scholars already having completed another year of studies.
I felt incredible, transformed. My blood pressure was thankful, too.
© Bruce Stambaugh 2016