Doug Bruns

Posts Tagged ‘walking’

Merry Christmas, Friends

In Dogs, Memoir, Travel on December 25, 2016 at 7:56 pm

There was a surprising number of people at the trailhead this Christmas morning. Some of them wished me a Merry Christmas, which I returned. A few simply nodded and smiled. It was a beautiful morning, crisp and clear. Yesterday’s rain in the valley dropped as snow in the Catalina’s in front of me. These are rugged mountains, not particularly tall, but jagged and naked. Over the ridge is a Bighorn sheep refuge and dogs are not allowed. So Lucy and I kept just shy of that. I had her tethered to me by a rope I’d stowed in the truck. I’ve kept her leashed in this manner since coyotes paraded through camp two days ago, heads down, eyes glancing here and there, totally insolent and bold. It’s a long rope and she gets to sprint every so often, as is her nature, while I have the comfort of keeping her safe. A month or two ago, it was in Colorado, I think, she was off leash and lost to my sight when I saw a big eight-point buck come storming out of a little copse of woods down by the water. Lucy was giving chase. She was easy to spot, a little black dog against the white field of snow. The buck wisely headed up hill and Lucy’s short legs soon gave out on her. She has the heart of a giant but the body of a simple dog.

I’ve had dogs all my life and I’ve written about them here plenty. Where it not for my dogs I would probably not have the morning walks. It’s as simple as that. And my morning walks are close to a fashion of prayer for me. I guess, if logic holds, my dogs have been personal prophets, pointing a way, sparking a thought, instilling wonder. Before Lucy was Maggie, and before her, Cleo, and Punkin before that–all assured of my morning attention, thankfully. Emerson said of Thoreau that his thought and writing was in direct proportion to the length of his daily walk. Thoreau himself claimed a need of at least four hours of sauntering. He called it sauntering which I particularly appreciate. He did not need a dog to make him get up and get going, but then he was a different type of human being altogether. Me, I prefer the companionship of my dog. I am never far from the thought that they, my beloved canines, are rushing through life by a factor of seven. Such future sadness is, for me, a motivation to remember each morning and moment.

Two mornings ago I hiked up to ruins left behind by the indigenous people of this valley fifteen hundred years ago. When the sun crested the ridge the plateau came alive. Birds sang around me. The sun suddenly warmed to the point I took off my down jacket. The morning light turned from steel grey to warm amber. I don’t go to church but if I did it would have to be like this, out of doors and without doctrine, pure and undefiled. These people, the ones who existed here, I’m told, had to make multiple trips down to the valley each day to get water and forage for food. I’m sure their existence was hard and my morning ritual would have been lost on them. Modern existence is not without challenges but the rudiments of existence, for most us, have been addressed and for that I am grateful. Merry Christmas, friends.

Where the Fore River meets Casco Bay.

In Dogs, Life, Memoir, Nature on July 6, 2012 at 6:00 am

Sunrise, Eastern Prom, Portland

The bedroom window faces across the water due east, where the Fore River enters Casco Bay. In the winter, when the sun is late rising, I watch it come up over Bug Light in South Portland. This time of year, though, the sun is up early–5:35 this morning–and I usually miss it. Morning sun is a draw I usually can’t resist. The gulls don’t seem to be able to resist either and like water-borne roosters shout and caw at its arrival. This morning one screamed, I swear, right next to the bedroom window and in my half slumber, I thought someone was being throttled.

This morning the bedroom filled with amber light, low-angled and dappled by the water, and so I rose to it smiling. Maggie jumps off her bed when she hears me sit up. Carole and I joke that she can sense my eye-lids opening. She stretches Sphinx-like, letting out a little squeal. Then she flaps her ears, ready to get rolling. Even at nine years, she’s like a puppy in the morning, hardly able to contain herself. I know exactly how she feels.

We went to the Eastern Prom this morning, as we do most mornings. Early is better, if you like solitude with your coffee. Letting Maggie off leash, we stroll and explore. I like to stop on the bluff and look over the water toward Peaks Island and Little and Big Diamond. When I do, I remind myself not to take this for granted. It appears to me that all mornings are special, but some more than others. If the sacred is to be discovered, I bet it can be–or is, for some–best discovered in the morning.


I’m on the road this week–family reunion, holiday, etc. This is a repost. It first appeared in April, 2010. Thanks for reading.

Walk On!

In Philosophy, The infinity of ideas, Thinkers, Wisdom on October 15, 2010 at 1:41 pm

I have new essay is up at The Nervous Breakdown. It begins:

“Despite my titanium hip, and the foot problems from years of marathoning, despite my tender back–one slipped disc–and the general wear and tear on this 55 year-old aging-athlete’s body, I (still) like walking. It does not escape me that my ancestors trekked from the savanna plains of Africa over 100,000 years ago and never stopped. It comforts me that, as a species, we have walked virtually everywhere, planting our feet on most every single spot planet earth has to offer.  It comforts me too, that despite the automobile and the jet, the boat and the train, our first inclination is to get up and walk. I do not take walking for granted. Over the years I have occasionally been in traction, on crutches, in pain or in some other way disposed of my ability to walk. When this has happened, I pretend that I will never walk again. I do this, like thinking of sickness when I am perfectly healthy, as a way to remind myself not to take walking for granted. (This is not unlike the Buddhist practice of going to the cemetery to remind oneself that one day it will all come to an end.) There are a lot of people who cannot walk and I do not want to be one who forgets this.”

To read the full essay, follow to this link: Metaphor: On Walking

Up and at ’em.

In Dogs, Life, Nature, Philosophy, Thinkers on April 13, 2010 at 7:02 pm

I walk the Promenade every morning, specifically the Eastern Prom. It’s about three miles round trip. But it’s not about the exercise. It’s about morning. About air. And clearing one’s head.  Nietzsche said the best thoughts are those that come while walking. (Thanks to blogger-philosopher Phil Oliver for this reminder.) Speaking of philosophers, it’s said that the villagers of Königsberg set their pocket watches by the grand-old rational-man, Kant, making his daily rounds, so precise were his habits. (Supposedly he once forgot his walk. He was reading Rousseau’s Emile.)

It’s only come on me recently how I’ve grown dependent on these morning strolls. This morning the sun had just painted my bedroom wall pink when my eyes opened. I realized I’d missed the sunrise. I immediately was filled with regret, regretting not being up and alert as the sun rose over Bug Light. It’s not a good thing to feel regret before even lifting your head off the pillow, but that’s the way it was. I rushed to make coffee and head out before the morning was spent. Maggie doesn’t seem to share my early-rising enthusiasm. But she comes around and out we go.

I’m not sure how I feel about listening to music while I take these walks. My heart says I should avoid the distraction. But my head tells me that the Goldberg Variations (Gould)  in the morning can only be a good thing. It is classic, this battle between head and heart, and I think it is the essence of human existence. Sleep in or see the sunrise? Walk in silence or listen to the immortals reach forward through the ages’ mist. What to do? There is no correct answer of course, only the tension one experiences when answers are not forthcoming. Is that not the essence of the human condition?

This returns me to the land of thinkers. Schopenhauer said that walking is arrested falling. One would expect that from him. I think more about this–literally–since I had a hip replaced two years ago. Every step is putting the body off balance, trusting that it will recover before falling. My hip has caused me some problems lately and I’m not sure it’s working as it should. That is another matter altogether, except that it isn’t, another matter, that is.. What really is this condition of being human without surprises, pleasant or otherwise?  This is where the morning walks come into play. Everything works in the morning for me. I am fresh. The day is fresh. Maggie is running, nose to the ground. (There is nothing, I feel, more beautiful nor perfect than a dog running in the morning, astride a body of water, the sun rising.) I know that I am not going to fall down, at least not this morning.

I had a conversation with an old and close friend this weekend, a buddy I’ve know for thirty years. As guys with that degree of familiarity will do, in a bar with beer aplenty, we talked about life, where we’ve come and how the hell did it all happen so fast. We knocked around our joint desire to live more simply. It is a theme in the air, common and shared, it seems by a lot of people. (Perhaps we’re spent–morally, emotionally, fiscally, who knows?– and are reacting.) I think, I told him, I’m making progress on that front. He asked me specifics. I wish I’d told him of my morning walks. That is how it all started. That is when the best thoughts come.