Howl!

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Full moon over Moosehead Lake, Maine, U.S.A. 1991

For the first time in almost two years the strength in my body broke through the accumulation of inactivity and slow muscles. For four weeks now I’ve been keeping up a regular succession of exercise, in part to prepare myself for less encumbered mountain walking this summer, but also to take control of my diabetes and to just plain feel good about myself. With all the heavy events and responsibilities of the last two years, turning 41, then 42, and now 43, seemed to weigh down upon my sense of vitality, as if all the voices had pummeled me into submission and I was about to join the flocks of flabby-midriffed housebounders. So many people my age seem to have given up. They want life easy and handed to them on a plate. They feel they have earned the right to rest and atrophy.

But I miss the mountains. I miss swinging my legs and feeling the air fill my lungs and my legs propelling me along the ridges. And I miss waking with a jump out of bed. I feel that piece by piece the elation at being alive is blowing away on some temporal wind, like dandelion seeds. That’s not how I want to grow older. I don’t want to succumb to cynical newspapers, closed curtains, and packages of potato chips. The engine that drives me… that drives us all… yearns for hope springing eternal. Again and again.

So I’ve embraced this physical promise of reawakening the muscles, bones, lungs, and eyes, talking myself into rhythms, tweaking a defiance against gravity, pushing and pulling at the immovable. It is a kind of dance, and the more often I reincarnate this resistance against entropy the more the movement reinforces itself and my body awakens. It is just sleep that incapacitates us.

Tending my core with Pilates workouts, yanking gravity with weights, bending branches with stretches and calisthenics, and touring my neighborhood with long loping runs and walks, all leave a feeling of occupancy, of claiming my place in space.

The effort has begun to pay off. This afternoon the weights lifted with less pull. My head inched closer to my knee. I breached the pull up bar five extra times. And most of all the run felt like bouncing, allowing me to spend more time acknowledging the glint of sunlight on the river’s water than on the crashing of my feet.

On the way back to my apartment I passed a house where a huge German Shepherd occupied a metal cage (Japanese have a bad habit of buying dogs too big for their tiny homes and often leaving them locked up in cages). Right as I paced by, the nearby kindergarten’s 5:45 chime went off, a loud, canned version of Big Ben’s bells. At the same moment the German Shepherd began to howl, sounding for all the world like a wolf. I stopped and watched him, his muzzle raised to the air, eyes shut, lips pursed, and hooting at the sky. With my rediscovered muscles bursting with energy I wanted to join in, to call to the horizon and regain paradise, the pack rolling over the hills and taking me away. Something was singing in me and I wasn’t alone.

As if a silent start gun had gone off my legs resumed their walk home. This is just the beginning. The cage will melt away, and I will heed the calling of the wild.

13 Responses

  1. Winter turns me into a hermit, but I love the feeling of cruising on my bike with headphones listening to music that turns everything surreal. No potato chips and cynical newspapers for me!
    But like the tin man, I could use an oil can…
    Nice story, Miguel

  2. Are you hearing the call of the wilderness areas of the Southern Hemisphere, perhaps? I can see you trekking New Zealand, and/or Tasmania’s Cradle Mountain National Park.

  3. a journey of a thousand miles begins with a first step.

  4. My friend Adagio at A Life In Wales told me about you and I’m absolutely enchanted with your writing and photography. I’ll keep reading.

  5. Nothing compares to outdoor strenuous activity does it? I find there is no better way to feel alive and at peace in the world than to be out in it using muscles and building endurance.

  6. Fabulous. The mind and the body are one. The health of one aspect naturally affects the other. Be sure to listen to your body…at age 43 the body can do less than it could at an earlier age, and it’s easy to injure yourself. Steady progress, however slow…congratulations!

  7. Next time you pass that dog in the cage, talk to it. Tell it about the run you’ve been on, the wind in your hair, the pleasure of filling your lungs with new cold air.

    Could you find the courage to ask its owners to introduce you to the dog?

    Then ask if the dog could walk with you the next time you go out.

    Freeing the dog from its cage. Imagine.

  8. You have no idea how inspiring this is to me. Beautifully written, and maybe enough to give me that final push out the door, for some long walks. I’ve been trying to convince myself to get on a regular exercise program. What better reason than “to just plain feel good about myself.”

  9. Beautiful shot. I’d be curious to know the details of the settings that led to that shot. I’ve never been able to get a full-moon shot like that and had read that it was virtually impossible.

    Obviously it’s not.

  10. I firmly believe growing old is a state of mind as much as anything. And like you, regular exercise is my way of stopping my mind from narrowing and my belly from widening. Now, if only the knees continue to hold up…

    I’d also question whether this winter in Japan should be counted as a winter at all: the weather’s been so good.

    Beautiful photo by way.

  11. Thanks for that encouragement. I feel I put off a lot of walking and need to just start to do it!!! More anyway.

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