Walking Around with Famous People

I intended to write, write, write through the pandemic about how we “country folk” made our way through the Covid mess. Now that things are opening back up, I’m not that surprised, I suppose, that I just didn’t find the energy for to do it.

But I’ve got notes, y’all, so I’m going to spend a couple of days talking about some of the things that kept us busy when we were supposed to stay away from other people.

I’ve mentioned that one thing I like to do each morning is take a walk. It really is pretty here and getting a little air sets me up nicely for the day. I walk with my neighbor, Jane, a couple of days a week (on many weeks we made sure to walk six feet apart!), but other days, I’m on my own.

When we lived in a suburban neighborhood in busy Northern Virginia, I’d get on the road walking or jogging by 5 am so I could get home in time to bother our kids before they went off to school. The problem with that schedule here is that when it’s dark, it’s dark. We don’t have streetlights.

That’s the moon setting, you know

Our daughter prodded me out the dark door. Now a New Yorker, when she came to visit she appreciated getting out early and seeing the stars. You’re missing out, she told me, so I dusted off my old headlamp and started braving the pre-dawn roads.

Sunrises are pretty good here.

The other problem, though, is critters. We have friendly creatures, like opossum, foxes, and rabbits (squee!). We have some other denizens, though, like coyotes and yes, black bears, whom I did not want to meet. The answer came from my sister and brother-in-law: podcasts.

I started with Smartless, a podcast featuring Jason Bateman, Sean Hayes, Will Arnett, and a mystery guest each week. I chose this one because I walk without my earbuds in (on dark, twisty, roads, I want to be able to hear what’s coming) and I figured that the sound of men’s voices would discourage anything creeping around from coming too close. They talk to some amazing people and what I love is that they’re all really, really kind to each other.

Then Michelle Obama’s Higher Ground came along and I loved that, too. And Brené Brown’s Unlocking Us is good, though her guests tend to be doing their book tours, and I have hit up Amazon a few too many times when I get home. I am now way behind on my reading.

Lately I’m loving Adam Grant’s WorkLife – he is an organizational psychologist and talks about how we get along with each other, mostly at work but also just in general. He has great energy, is really thoughtful, and was sassy enough match wits with Malcom Gladwell when he was a guest on the show. I just saw that WorkLife is one of Apple’s most highly-rated podcasts, so here I was thinking I was discovering something but ahem, I’m just a little late to the party.

Most of all, I highly recommend Every Little Thing, where each episode answers a burning question, like how old is Winnie the Pooh (the character. Old bear? Young bear?), or whether people actually only breathe through one nostril at a time, or how the game Scrabble became so popular. The episode on Pooh had me laughing like a fool and actually crying at the end, and I dare you to listen to the episode on dog shows (are they anti-dachshund?) without cheering for the weenie dogs.

These little drops of wisdom each morning have made the walks a lot of fun, and I’ll tell you what: I haven’t seen a bear yet.

Critters

A subtle fox

In Franklin County, you don’t forget for long that you live in the country.

This guy started coming to clear about the bird feeders as the sun was going down each evening, but he’s gotten bolder and is now showing up earlier. He even brought a friend one evening!

Like most of the folks around here, we have a number of deer that stop by from time to time. But on Saturday, we had this little dude showed up with his mom.

And we have birds aplenty (in fact, our lazy little cat nabbed a nuthatch one evening, thoroughly disgusting Jim, who wrenched the prey away just as it expired).

Surprisingly fierce

Possums, bunnies (for awhile I was taking an early-morning exercise class where one of my classmates would ask if anyone has seen any “Bambis or Thumpers” on the way over) foxes, skunks, turkeys and groundhogs, even a sleepy bear or two. It really reminds you who was here first (and makes one much more cautious while driving around at night).

Bear Season Gets Real

Appropriate for the vernal equinox today, I saw a sleepy bear this morning.

Near our house is a bridge that crosses Gills Creek. One of the homes along the road is also situated right on the creek, with a path that leads up a steep hill from the dock to the house.

It was on this path that I saw what appeared to be a very large black dog. Here’s my thought process:

  • Aw, look at that dog.
  • That’s a big dog.
  • A really big dog.
  • Maybe it’s a wolf?
  • No, would a wolf be that color?
  • Hey, wait. THAT’S A REALLY SKINNY BEAR!

I came home, did some research on bear skinniness, and came up with an article from Adventure Journal in which the author explained that not only do bears burn up to 4000 kcal a day while hibernating, using fat stores to stay alive, but they also mosey around in a “walking hibernation” for the first few weeks after they awaken as their metabolisms and body functions get rolling again. A skinny bear is entirely plausible.

So I’m 97% sure I saw a bear. And 99% sure he was looking for a picnic basket.

(And 100% sure you won’t be seeing me on any early morning walks anytime soon.)