It is good to feel your steps on the earth not to feel the earth, but to know how you propel yourself. I step hard on the outside of my heels. Some people strike on their toes, some on the inside of their heel, some on the balls of their feet. Some people wear the right shoe down faster than the left, some go vice versa. It is good to know if you walk, stroll, march, jog, trot, parade, sachet, hike, prance.
It is good to feel the weight of a pack on your shoulders and back. Feel your shirt dampen with sweat because of the pack, heavy and full of what you value, what you believe indispensable. I carry the keys to my home, pens, notebook, manuscripts of stories and poems, a journal, water bottle, monthly planner (which is really a record of my days, a telling of my past not of my future), an iPhone, a protein bar, sunscreen, and a novel to read—Herman Hesse’s Narcissus and Goldmund today.
It is good to hear the scrambling of unseen creatures at my passing. Here in Tucson, these noises are from lizards, birds, beetles, and ground squirrels. I fear the bites of snakes and the stings of scorpions. Fearing these dangers keeps me alive and safe so I can walk daily.
It is good to feel Tucson’s heat, to feel the sun in spring, summer, autumn, and winter, to experience the shine of sun on your skin, hair, clothes. It’s different in each season. Did you know that?
It is good to lament the waste and garbage of your fellow humans as it sits, tumbles, and snags on the earth. The trash is prodigious: cans, bottles, napkins, plastic sacks, paper plates, cigarette butts, receipts, broken plastic containers, graded homework, rusty bolts, washers, nails. It is all set to pollute, but the sun bakes it, fades it, and turns it brittle. The desert sand scours this refuse then buries it. The trash loses its cohesion. It is subsumed by the wild irreverence of Nature as it lives and decays.
It is good to hear the sound of the wind in the branches and the buffelgrass, the calls and responses of cardinals, finches, quail, and wrens in their own take on jazz. It is good to hear the cries of hawks as they dive for prey.
It is good to observe Nature. Here are the broken, smashed, and now decaying bodies of bushes, trees, and cactus. Alongside, looming over and thriving, there are the current ranks of survivors who feed off the excreted nutrients of their deceased brethren. In the Sonoran desert everything has a barb, needle, or spike to fend off the would-be eater. Cholla, ocotillo, palo verde, jumping and barrel cactus, mesquite, and saguaros grow challenges to digestion.
It is good to feel my body’s strengths and limitations as the muscles power me, the bones support me, my ligaments maintain the rapport between bone and bone, the tendons do the same for muscle and bone, the lungs inflate and deflate, the heart contracts and expands, and blood dilates the veins.
It is good to feel pity for passing drivers overwrought in their haste to go, to speed, and to arrive. Their windows are up, air conditioners on, and their music volume is up. Listen to the rattle of suspensions on pavement, the sucking of tire tread as it heats with the friction of motion, and the gurgle of combustion engines. They are in a rush, late, impatient, enraged, and frustrated at their fellow drivers, the streetlights, the pace of their lives, the crawling of the traffic lines, the way time is against them. It is good to be apart from them, if only for a walk today, right now, though I will be one of them once more, soon enough, tomorrow at the latest, later today at the soonest. Aren’t we all? Or is it just me?
As an army brat Shay saw much of the US and Europe as a child. He attended the University of Arizona and earned a BA in English and Creative Writing, double major. A divorced dad of two teenagers, he resides in Tucson, Arizona, where the landscape and confluence of diverse cultures is an inspiration. In 2014, he self-published his first novel, Our Lives for Others, through Createspace on Amazon.com.