For over a year, I have had a standing date to go for a five-mile walk one day a week with my good friend. We go to a wetlands park not far from where we drop our children at school in the morning.
At the park, miles of wooden boardwalk trails are built over marshes and lakes. An array of Florida wildlife is within careful reach. Birds caw, and alligators bark. The view is breathtaking. It does take a good chunk of time out of my day, however. Last week I had to cancel. And then this morning at the last minute, calling from my cell, I meekly began to give an excuse to my friend to bow out again. I am tired, I have too much to do, I am overwhelmed with paperwork, I have a project due — pick an excuse, any excuse.
“Just come and we will go for a quick half-mile walk,” my friend says. Because I adore her and don’t want to let her down again, I meet her to go for a “quick” walk. I am wearing the street shoes, jeans and a black cotton shirt I threw on for “drop-off.” This is not Florida walking attire, but I think I can last a half of a mile dressed this way.
As we arrive at the wetlands, everything shimmers as the residue of a recent rain catches the gentle morning sun. The air is fresh and newly washed, and a large blue heron screeches as it flies overhead. The pathways are still slick from the morning shower. From the safety of the path, we are so close to the still water beneath us, yet the wildlife barely notices our presence. Small birds hop among low-hanging tree branches and snowy white egrets rest casually on the railings, not even flinching as we walk by. Herons as tall as our children skim the waters, and I wonder if they notice the alligators, still as stones floating silently nearby. Wild Florida iris bloom, and some bright orange flowers I don’t recognize grow in bunches right out of the marshes. Along the path, a number of photographers with very serious cameras pause to capture the remarkable beauty of this Florida morning.
My friend and I walk and talk and talk, covering all of the topics weaving through our daily lives. The magnificence of the landscape here at the edge of the Everglades washes over me and the promised half-mile trek turns into one mile, then another and another.
Reminded of the wonder and majesty of a world of flora and fauna living independently and parallel to our own, the clutter of my life fades away. Arriving at home, I feel refreshed and reset. My thoughts are clear, and I am excited to return to my studio with my creative energy nourished. And it was then I realized the best part was having a friend who knew just what I needed.