The mail truck is parked at the foot of the front walk. I hurry over and discover, relieved, that it’s our favorite mail guy.
“Do you have a heavy package for us today?” I ask.
“Uh, YEAH,” he says. “What IS that?”
I talk about ordering five-gallon tubs of dish detergent and laundry soap, and he gets very interested. He tells me he’s been working on ways to save money, and one of them is by ordering in bulk.
“I know,” he says, “this’ll sound crazy, but I bought a case of deodorant. It doesn’t go bad, and hey: I saved twenty dollars.”
I explain about our plastic fast; he gets really interested in that, too. He talks about the floating plastic dump in the ocean. I tell him about our misadventures in homemade dish soap, and our compromise by buying the biggest containers of commercial product we can find.
While we talk, he hefts the box off the truck and manhandles it up the steps and to the door, which Jim swings open.
“I’ll just put that inside for you,” the mail guy says. He looks at the box he’s just delivered.
“Amazon?” he says. “You got it from Amazon?”
I confirm that, and he rubs his chin, thoughtfully.
“Something to think about,” he says. “I tell my kids—they’re in college now—that there are ways to save money. They think I’m nuts, but I figure they’ll come around.”
“Yeah,” I agree. “Wait till they’re on their own, paying for apartments…they might decide dad’s a little smarter than they realized. There’s got to be a different way to live.”
He gives me the thumb’s up and we thank him again, warning him that the laundry detergent vat is arriving the next day.
“No worries,” he yells as he starts up the truck. “I’m off on Wednesdays!”
Last Tuesday, I finally added another 500 steps to Connie the Fitbit’s daily log. I had been avoiding it, eking out my daily steps in short walks here and there throughout the day. Some nights I came home from class and had to take a walk around the block at 8:30 to get my steps in.
I was making my goal, but it was kind outside the point; I should be taking long, stretching walks—good for me in so many ways. But I avoided that thought and let my step goal linger at an uninspiring, mediocre level, until finally, the thought caught up with me. I got up that Tuesday morning and decided I’d take my walk BEFORE I made my coffee. I tapped the boosted goal into my phone’s Fitbit app and took off.
Birds were raucously celebrating the bright, chill morning, and a brisk little breeze riffled the daffodils, rampant throughout the neighborhood. I felt good walking, and I decided, that morning, to make it a real walk. I doubled my usual route, and discovered I felt fine.
The next morning, I stretched it even further, circling around to the mail box and dropping off some letters before heading out to my longer route. That day, having walked and shopped and vacuumed, I hit my step goal early, before mid-afternoon.
I was surprised at how good that felt.
The long, early morning walk quickly became part of my morning routine, and I found I was not stretching to meet my step goal. Instead, every day, I was besting it without effort by at least 500 steps.
And in the late afternoon, when the day’s obligations were wrapping up, the time when I’d often check my email, I would find that sadness waited for me. It was the time when I used to read Terri’s emails and fire off long replies.
Instead of opening emails then, I’d take myself off for another walk. And in that week, spring unfolded. First, nubbins of buds, just nudging out. Then tiny green fists, waiting to punch the air. Finally, on the scrubby, hardscrabble trees by the rocky trail down into the gulley, impossibly green infant leaves. And the flowering trees budded and bloomed, all in the course of three days—snowy white and magenta and pale, delicate pink.
The sadness, of course, lingers. Terri loved the growing things; how impossible it is to think she’s not here to see this spring.
I walk a slender path, balanced between beauty and sorrow, and I think about the gift that life is, and how we tend to squander that gift, asleep and ignorant, unmindful of our time and place.
We went to a library book sale in Newark this weekend. We paid five bucks for a sturdy paper bag and thought, among the three of us, we could manage to make it worth our while, to put enough books in that bag to satisfy our reading needs for a month or two. We split up to shop our own particular aisles, and after five minutes, the first bag was almost filled, and I went back and bought another.
We filled them both and celebrated with a nice pub lunch and came home and sorted and stacked our wonderful finds. I finalized my TBR stack, and I swore nothing would sway me from that reading.
And then I took James to the library so he could return and refresh his DVD loans. And I just LOOKED at the new books—just looked to see what was there.
I brought home Dani Shapiro’s Inheritance. Despite the promises I made to my stack of books, I read Inheritance this week.
It is a compelling story. At age 54, kind of on a lark, Shapiro gets her DNA analyzed. And, in the results, she sees a shocking truth: the father she adored was not her father at all.
Shapiro embarks on a journey of research and self-discovery; she finds her biological father and she grapples with home truths, with feelings of loss, with the thought she’s been betrayed by the people she trusted most. Her husband and son sustain her, and so does her strong belief in things spiritual. She mentions the three big questions—questions she probably thought she had already wrestled with to define her hard-won answers.
Now, she had to examine those answers and recalibrate.
The questions, she said, were these:
Who am I?
Why am I here?
How am I to live my life?
How am I to live my life?
I think about that as I walk, about living blindly and by rote and about the alternative. The earth warms into life, and I feel something stirring in response.
It is time to fully appreciate, time to be alive.
Yesterday two pounds of freshly roasted decaf beans arrived in the mail, express delivery from Yeah Me Too in Clintonville. Our favorite mail guy walked the package to the house, and he held it up to his nose and breathed in the aroma before he handed it to me.
“It smells so good in the truck,” he says, “driving that package around.” I gather up that package, and a smaller one addressed to Jim, and the magazines and envelopes he proffers.
Before I can thank him, he says, “Hey, I ordered myself five-gallons of dish detergent. I think I probably saved fifty bucks! It’ll last me all year, I bet, me being alone. And I like thinking I’m not putting all that plastic into the landfill.”
I tell him that’s great, and he gives me a thumbs up.
“I think you’re right,” he says. “There maybe IS another way to live.”
I take the mail inside to the table, and I roll that thought around, and I vow, again, to do my best to stay awake and aware, to appreciate the gifts of today, to keep the question always centered: How am I to live my life?
I need, I know, to turn down the volume on the outside voices and attend to my inner voice. I unpack the coffee beans; I open a bag, and hold it to my nose, and I breathe that rich and smoky goodness. Then I lace on my sneakers and go for a walk, and I listen.