I woke up to the most glorious day yesterday, bright blue skies, a slight breeze sifting through the screen, and white puffy clouds drifting along lazily on the horizon. Although the Sunday paper sat unopened, the outdoors kept whispering in my ear. Unable to resist I threw on a pair of shorts, grabbed my camera, hopped in my car and turned the keys in the ignition.
A friend had told me recently about a beautiful walk and trails along the far end of the city running parallel to the river. Sounding like the perfect way to enjoy my early morning hours, I turned the car in that direction. At this end of the park was a skateboard park, restroom facilities, some picnic tables and a small parking lot. At such an early hour there were only three other unoccupied cars and a few intrepid early morning skateboarders arcing back and forth on the skate ramps.
Spring was making itself abundantly present in the wild irises, poppies and general melange of wildflowers visible everywhere I looked. Below me in the center of the river I could see a fly fisherman standing waist deep moving his wrist rhythmically back and forth snaking his line in the water. Butterflies hovered over the blooming bushes and a background buzz of insects swirled around my head like stereophonic sound.
This, for me, was one of my “near perfect moments”. Occasionally I have these moments where everything feels right with the world, as if all aspects of our universe come into balance for a single fraction of time. The temperature was neither too hot nor too cold, no phones broke the silence, no music playing, no televisions blasting, only a peaceful feel feeling of well being.
At the beginning of the trail there was another hiker about 50 yards ahead of me and two ladies not far beyond him who veered onto the path to the right not long after I got my first wind. Taking my camera out along the way as good shots presented themselves, I soon found myself alone on the trail. Finding a rock overlooking the water I sat with my own thoughts for twenty minutes or so until a man on a bike passed by and waved and reluctantly I started on my way again. Before long I rounded a corner and he and his bike were leaning against a tree watching a fisherman in the water below. After we exchanged pleasantries, he asked if he could take a few pictures of me against the backdrop of the lake. Really? Now, I’m not usually the suspicious type, but I also didn’t just crawl out from under a turnip leaf so feeling a bit of a prickle on the back of my neck and suddenly feeling a little isolated, I thanked him and said I was meeting my husband a short ways down the trail and had to get going.
Once on my way again, I felt stupid to be that distrusting, but the world has kind of pointed us in that direction these days and it’s not like you never hear about people disappearing or getting hurt in just such a situation.
Soon people joined me here and there along the way and waved or said hello as they passed and I put the incident behind me. As I approached the bridge which was to signal the end of this half of my walk a young man passed me, nice looking, late twenties, ball cap and cargo shorts. As he passed he said “hello”, and I said it back. He stopped and turned around and approached me and asked if he could ask me a quick question. Immediately I assumed he wanted to bum a cigarette, which I didn’t have or borrow money, which would elicit the same response. Instead he said he didn’t want to offend me but he had a bet with his friends that he could flash someone and he wanted me to help him win it. Funny, I didn’t feel scared but I sure felt angry. There’s something about a person coming into your space like that and violating it that gets your Irish moving real quickl. In a clear and decisive voice I told him to get away from me immediately or I would start screaming and wouldn’t stop until the police arrived. At that, he took off running and disappeared over the hill and at the same time a family of four rounded the bend.
Afterwards, I felt a pang of fear. I guess I tend to forget that the world isn’t as safe as I would like to think it is, and my other half has instructed me not to go walking in that type of situation without him or somebody else with me.
My daughter interjected a little humor into the experience later in the day by sharing a story of her own. Often walking alone in a wild game preserve by her house, my son-in-law equipped her with mace in case she ever had the occasion to defend herself.
Following her usual route on Sunday, the day had started out with a chill in the air but half way through her walk turned quite warm. The mace was tucked in the front pocket of her hoodie and the hoodie was getting too warm as she worked up a sweat. Stopping by a slow-moving stream, she set down her water bottle and pulled the hoodie over her head forgetting that the mace was still in her pocket. As she tugged to pull off the tight-fitting neck she somehow managed to depress the spray nozzle on the mace and saturated her face. Blinded and eyes stinging she searched for the only available water, that being the rather slimy stream and threw her face in it. People were apparently passing by as she doused herself face first and giving her a wide berth.
Face red, both from the mace and the embarrassment she jogged home with dripping hair and soaking shirt basically finding herself in the unusual situation of having to defend herself from herself. I really did pass on those genes.
Yesterday did teach me something. In our minds bad things happen to other people, but it is unfortunate that women in particular are vulnerable and as such need to be aware of their surroundings and pay attention to the people in their immediate area. Fortunately, this didn’t turn out to be any more serious than a little scare, but it could have. I will never stop enjoying my walks or live my life being afraid, but it was a gentle nudge to remind myself I’m not invincible.
You have to try this salad – the dressing is everything here. In my twenties I used to have lunch at a Mexican restaurant close to where I worked. The waiter there used to make me this dressing, or a version thereof, and I always loved it. Particularly nice for Cinco de Mayo!
Cinco de Mayo Salad
1 pkg. hearts of romaine lettuce
3 Roma tomatoes, chopped
3 scallions, sliced thin
1 small can of sliced ripe olives
3/4 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1 large ripe avocado, chopped
1/3 cup tortilla chips, crushed
Chop lettuce and place in bottom of glass salad bowl (for appearance if desired). Decorate top with all other ingredients and sprinkle with tortilla chips.
1 cup light ranch dressing (prepared)
1/2 cup mild or hot fire-roasted tomato salsa
1/2 tsp. Cajun seasoning
Mix dressing ingredients together and refrigerate for 1 hr. prior to serving.
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