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Sun’s gone. Time for a walk, else my mind’s gonna explode. Decompressing and taking in nothing is best at the moment. All day answering email and attending meeting after meeting. Gotten this down to an art and get all bothered when a wrench is thrown in. Man shouldn’t be caged and set on repeat until he breathes his last. Cubicle monkey, I’ve heard it called. Soon enough I have on the running shoes that make my heels ache after long treks. Useless buds that loop over the ear are plugged in, and some album is steaming from YouTube. I set out.

Exhaling, shoulders drop. Music helps drown the day. Can’t really suck the air out of the 9-to-5 because it’s everyday, weekends included. Did today what was done yesterday and tomorrow is no different. So I embark and go to a place where I only want food, shelter, and Jesus. One foot in front of the other and repeat. A brisk pace is kept as not to make this a waste of an exercise opportunity. The last November leaves cross my path and touch my face which is amazing because there are no leaves left. God has kept these for me. They greet like an ice-filled bucket of cold water. I walk even faster after the encounter, arms swinging now.

Years have gone by in a zombie-like state. At work I arrive and right away want to leave, but suck it up and work my tail off. The mortgage is too big and the flow of salary can’t be stopped lest I want my family in dire straights again. Bills and daycare don’t help the cause. Money leaves just as fast as it comes, so there’s no fooling around. Nose down for payday, speaking of which, I wish it had come yesterday when that credit card bill arrived. Trying to keep up with the interest. Behind this facade there’s something God’s waking me up to. Leaves touching my face on a day without leaves is no mere coincidence. I’m wearing a ball cap that’s flat-brimmed. Those maple leaves would have had to be break dancing to have pulled off that gravity-defying encounter.

It’s warmer now. Padded vests are wonderful insulators. Turning off Main Street, I head down a road under construction and then along a darker avenue flanked by forest. Everything is heightened. “What am I doing here,” I think. Too late for dangerous, plain stupid best describes the decision that sees me beside the hidden. Bushes are scanned and the music should be turned-off. It’s not. Just scarring myself. “I rebuke you satan in the name of Jesus. I rebuke you satan in the name of Jesus,” I repeat out loud. No one is on the road, and if there is something in the dark forest that would do me harm, it’s kept at bay by the only Name with the power to keep it there. A group of homes replaces the forest as I continue my walk and end this.

There should be twice the lights on the road. A skunk is almost hidden in darkness along my path, so I cross the street. Between the street lights it gets blackout dark. This time it’s not the demons but the critters whose path I’m sure to cross, as I almost did there, that keeps me scanning. A ways down a raccoon runs up a tree. If I get peed on by a striped ball of fluff there’s a tomato bath waiting. Hear the Italian grandmothers complaining as they see bare shelves at the grocery store where the canned tomatoes lay only hours before. And if the creature has rabies… Speeding along now and thinking about how I’ve been a jerk husband and an absent dad. “Pull it together Thomas,” I say in the dark. Dire thoughts and regrets accompany us in moments we think our last. Jesus, keep these creatures friendly and at home tonight.

I’m walking through back streets with the goal of getting to the next major road. Just want to touch it and turn back. Used to be able to run this loop. Still can but the knees take too much of a pounding and these heels just can’t. Heart doesn’t beat as fast, but the lack of pounding is made up for in distance and time on the road. I’ll feel just as good when I get back home. Enough of this tune ringing in my ears. I stop under a street light and think back to when a coworker from South Africa told me they call street lights robots back home. “Go down about ten robots, turn right, and it should be there staring you in the face,” I imagine her saying to some lost soul when apartheid ruled. It’s hard enough dealing with demons and critters, but robots staring me down as I change the music to stream something a bit more up-tempo is something I can’t deal with, maybe.

McCowan road is graced by my running shoes. I head back the way I came, re-entering the darkness. Wish there were more robots lighting the way. Whatever, I’m headed homeward. It’s not far now. Soon I’ll be behind locked door letting down my guard. This hike was supposed to be relaxing. Arms girating like a compass at the North Pole for the final stretch. “Have to get in as much exercise as possible. Have to make it home,” I say as though I were talking casually to an accompanying walker. This feels good and I am glad for it, grateful even. The skunk didn’t spray me and the raccoon kept his rabies to itself if it had any. Don’t think it did. The demons kept their distance and the robots didn’t uproot themselves and give chase. My car comes into view as I turn onto a familiar row. Tomorrow I meet a friend for coffee. Wait’ll he hears about my walk.

photo credit: Dave Dugdale