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Walking with Coach Mother Nature

When I moved to Seattle from New York three years ago, I imagined I’d become more in shape than I’d ever been before. Instead, surrounded by people who take health and fitness as serious as their work – and who seem to do everything in the extreme – I wilted.

Biking to the office in the rain, playing soccer on slippery, soggy fields, taking up Crossfit or ultra-marathoning seemed not only intimidating – but not much fun. Ironically, I’d been much more active back in New York City.

Then I moved out of a high rise building downtown and up to a beautiful hilly neighborhood called Queen Anne. After a long season of rainy, grey gloom, suddenly things were sprouting everywhere.

Our newly-planted grass went from sad patches of muddy sod to Easter-egg green. Flowering fruit trees were in full splendor, ground coverings lush and dotted with pink and purple flowers. Everyone it seemed had gorgeously landscaped front yards, often terraced with rocks because of the steep hills.

I started taking walks, slow ones at first as I took in my neighbor’s varied and spectacular landscapes, stopping to take pictures – ideas for my own first yard as an adult. My camera was soon filled with dozens of trees, flowers, plants, rockery, fountains, and hedges. The camellia trees were dropping their heavy, seductive blooms all over people’s yards. Lavender perfumed the air and grew thick even on sidewalks. I was surrounded by my favorite flower, the peony.

I am not exaggerating when I say that the scenery rivaled many botanic gardens. As I watched various plants and flowers bloom, recede, only to be replaced by a new set of something, I too fell into my own cadence—a walking rhythm.

I’d been climbing steep hills, but hadn’t even minded since I’d been so engrossed in nature’s show. These hills were not something to be dreaded, but scaled quickly so as to get to the next surprising, magical display. Side streets that I’d once dallied on, I now strode faster, familiar enough with the flora of it to pass it by without stopping, yet happily acknowledging it like one might a fellow co-worker en route to the coffee machine. My calves felt firmer, my arms less leaden.

For two months, I’d been unconsciously developing a free and simple exercise regimen – not only one that worked my muscles but that captured my imagination as well. Many of my fellow Seattleites might have scoffed at my “lite” routine, but it was just what I needed at that time in my life.

As I venture out now to try different ways of staying fit, I still take my walks.

Summer is over, the last of the huge-headed dahlias and sunflowers have fallen over from their own weight and the lavender has gone grey and raggedy. But apples and pears are ripening on the trees that previously boasted their beautiful blooms and leaves are turning red and gold. Pumpkins and squash are fat on their vines.

My walks, I know, will continue to care for my heart – in more ways than just one.

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