I've been going to the gym lately, but today is just too pretty to be cooped up inside. Autumn has finally arrived in Houston on the heels of much-needed rain. The light slants differently on our backyard fence, casting shadows of our red maple swaying in the cool breeze. We haven't touched the A/C today. We opened a window for our cat, Harley, who revels in this weather through the screen.

Though a little sickness has settled into my ears and sinuses — a bittersweet companion to my favorite seasonal change — I slipped on my brown TOMS and set out to snap a few Instagrams of the sky and trees and other inspirations of nature. I walked across the street to the track around the retention pond. I thanked the Lord for the extravagance of beauty and some quality introvert time. Not halfway through my walk I saw my neighbor, Bob, sitting on a bench with his white Chihuahua, Baby. We chatted for a moment, which turned into a long conversation full of laughter and Bob's wisdom. Then we walked to see if his friend was home, whose backyard faced the track down by the street. When we didn't find his neighbor, Bob and I walked the rest of the circular path together all the way to his house, then I walked to mine. "It was good to walk with you," he said, smiling.

As my sun-flooded eyes adjusted to the indoor light, I fixed a bowl of split pea soup sprinkled with pink Himalayan sea salt and black pepper. I munched on some black olives. For dessert, I had a banana with almond butter. Then I set the kettle to boil for nettle leaf & peppermint tea. The tea tag said, "Pause," as if to assure me that stopping to talk with my neighbor was a good decision (seeing as I have lots of writing to do). I didn't know that I needed our leisurely walk together, but I did. Bob needed a listening ear and companionship. To share thanks for the relaxing schedule his retirement provides. To express astonishment over the differences in our culture these days: "Why aren't the local parks filled with kids at play? They're all inside playing video games, that's why. When I was little, I played outside 'til it turned dark," Bob said. "Autumn, winter, spring, summer — rain or shine. I got muddy, sweaty, cold, and broke my arm playing football." He watches very little TV — we share a disdain of loud, repetitive, mind-sucking commercials. Bob walks Baby at least twice a day, and watches football with neighborhood friends on their backyard patios and decks. Baby knows their dogs as well as Bob knows his neighbors.

As I listened, I was thankful that I paused during my walk. Getting to know Bob better felt like a blessing, very similar to how my friends at the nursing home bless me, no matter if I go to serve them. Blessings are reciprocal. I ought to pause and talk with those in my path more often, and keep visiting my displaced friends. I said it over at The Curator and I'll say it again here: "The elderly in our midst are full of rich stories and wisdom that are all too often overlooked as unimportant and commonplace."

And for your reading pleasure, check out the new essays (and delicious recipes) on the Art House America Blog.

Blessings to you, readers.


Christine said...

Love this, Jenni. Particularly because I could feel the exact environment of your walk, you described it perfectly. I, too, love the inspiration messages on Traditional Medicinals tea bags :)

Beth Lund said...

Makes me jealous of Bob. I need me some Jenni time. You always slow me down and see the beauty in everything. Luv u.