A-sauntering we should go

Looking for a springtime snack.I was out for a drive and a wander when I happened upon a pair of turkey vultures, perched in a tree, staring down at the road, waiting for dinner to be served.

“Not today,” I said.

They didn’t move. I stopped to shoot a few pictures.

About 100 yards down the road, I met a family of bicyclists – Dad, Mom and son. At least, I assumed from the usually external physiological indicators and demeanor they were Dad, Mom and son.

“Meeting” has a whole new meaning these days. We waved at each other, from opposite sides of the road and going in opposite directions, and everyone smiled.

I have met several folks that way, a wave and a smile as I and they pass going in different directions. For the past week, the county has reported only six cases of the illness caused by the coronavirus, but there is no sense taking unnecessary chances.

Anyone who knows me could describe a guy who likes to visit – up close, not quite close enough to spit on each other, but to visit in person. I was raised with physical contact, full body hugs, though those were generally limited to within the family. Then I spent some time in Europe, and family took on a whole ‘nuther meaning. Men hugged, sometimes kissed each other on the cheeks, and two women walking hand in hand was not cause for tabloid stories.

These days, being close enough to hear each other say hello is almost too close. I worry we will learn to be more afraid of each other than we already are.

Fortunately, maintaining “social distance” need not be depressing. All one requires is some fresh air and some woods, or even a two-lane country road.

I parked the Outback, slung the Nikon’s carry-strap over my neck and began to wander, my destination determined only by the fences stretched between aging cedar posts lining each side of the road,. Stopping at the stream bank, I noticed grass streamers waving in the flow – until, with a flash of silver, the grass became a school of minnows suddenly changing direction.

A woodpecker banged on a hard, dead tree trunk. I stopped and peered toward the sound, hoping to see the bird. Unsuccessful, I began walking, and the woodpecker restarted banging, as though flaunting the fact I could not find it.

Across the road, and parallel to it, a bald eagle winged its way across the pasture, escorted by a red-tailed hawk like an A-10 Warthog escorting an intruder from private hunting grounds. At the far boundary, the eagle continued while the hawk peeled off, going back to whatever purpose he had before duty called.

John Muir, the early 20th Century wilderness explorer credited with instigating the National Parks System, called it “sauntering.”

“I don’t like either the word (hike) or the thing. People ought to saunter in the mountains – not hike!” he said.

Many of us live near one of those national parks; the Gettysburg National Military Park is open for sauntering. The latest GNMP posting says the visitors center and observation towers are closed, and the park “will not conduct on-site public or educational programs, collect trash, operate or provide restrooms, maintain roads or walkways (including plowing and ice melting), or provide visitor information and services.”

“The battlefield and all roads (and) trails will remain open.” In other words, we’re on our own. But wandering or sauntering is not meant to share with crowds – or experience in a hurry. At least until we are told the width of a road is not enough separation.

Thanks for coming along. I hope you enjoyed the ride. Comments are welcome, and please feel free to share. Please click the “Share” button to share it on social media, or copy the URL and send it to friends and acquaintances you think might appreciate it.

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