Peach + purple swirls

STILL not well. Sigh. Here is the next chapter of my Lockdown One Sort-Of-Memoir. Remember when we didn’t wear masks? That was ill-advised, wasn’t it?! You can catch up on the other chapters below, if you are new here. And know that I will continue my Lockdown TWO walks and chatter as soon as I possibly can. I miss the flowers so much!

Read chapter one 

Read chapter two

Read chapter three

Read chapter four

Read chapter five

Chapter 6

Sunday. I’d walked 8km yesterday and my legs were a little heavy, feet aching today. 

I’ll have a rest day, I thought, ignoring the fact that I’d just the day before decided I would walk every day.

Google tells me a rest day is just the thing, I reasoned. You need to give your body a chance to recover. No matter that I was merely dawdling about the park for a couple of hours and not really reaching pace. I was an athelete. I needed to respect my body! I should sit on the couch.

So I found myself at 6.45am sitting on my sofa watching the sun begin to peek through the clouds as the radio confirmed that so far 69 Australians have lost their lives to COVID-19. 

A familiar teary feeling was pulling at me and I realised that the heaviness might be more than my muscles getting used to a new and much more energetic routine. It might be an emotional heaviness.

Mental ill health is like that. It disguises itself and seeps out when you think you’ve got it sorted. This particular seeping session did not care that I was enjoying a huge cup of coffee and had decided I would do some yoga (something I had abandoned of late) instead of walking. It had determined to roll through my body starting at the corners of my eyes and working its way down.

Quickly it became clear to me that I should finish my coffee, get dressed and hit the pavement.

I was, I knew, storing the tunnel man incident in the back of my brain and it was seeding worries and doubts into my system. Worries that I was not safe. Worries that I could not defend myself. Worries that I might not be able to get back home. All excellent worries if you were actually under threat of attack. But really I was not, as far as I knew, and I should not let one anxious incident sabotage something that was making me feel so much more content and so much less anxious.

As I finished my coffee and looked out the window the sky was putting on a show. The clouds looked fluffy and silver, tinted with a pink fairy floss hue.

Those clouds want me to walk. I told myself. They want me to not give up, not worry about tunnel men and not start making a very clever series of excuses that would see me skulking about at home instead of looking at puffing people’s red faces, golden leaves, dewy grass and rollicking dogs.

I AM going to walk! I cried, startling my own dogs.

I am going to get out there and – even if it’s only for half an hour – I’m going to get moving and start the day on a high note. I’m going to do what I need to do to feel good. And I’m going to go to the toilet before I go.

Walk 5 - 9113 steps

It didn’t take me long to find my pace once I headed down the driveway and out onto the street. Walking had become so much easier in such a short pace of time. I was astonished by how quickly I could settle into my steps and stop thinking about the walking, letting my mind wander to other things.

As I hit the park it was still quiet, despite my slightly later start. But slowly the path became dotted with folk walking and running and cycling and wrangling pups.

Before I knew it I was a quarter of the way along my route, being overtaken by countless gents in lycra and kitted up joggers.

Some people shouted greetings as they passed while others remained stern faced. It surprised me who took the time to make contact. There was a ‘morning!” from a streamlined woman in very professional looking running gear. There was a ‘hello!!’ from an elderly lady walking with an equally elderly gent. There was a sort of splutter and throat clearing sound from a man on a bike who was either going to hard or working to spread as many germs as possible as he passed me by. I held my breath and hoped it was the former.

Before I knew it I had passed the reedy billabong with its fenced-off algal bloom. I had passed the rotunda where a beer carton sat on a wooden picnic table, evidence of some covert social activity. I passed the playground, the grassy strips edged with bush, the low-fenced houses that gave a glimpse into other lives.

And then I rounded the bend and spotted yesterday’s nemesis – the dastardly tunnel. Ughhh.  It somehow loomed darker than the day before, a rectangle of light gleaming from the other end.

Not today tunnel, I thought, crossing the path. Not today.

Instead, I took the route along the gravel track between the now grown-up saplings doing a loop and turning to head home.

I high-fived myself mentally for being on the return leg and promised I’d revisit the tunnel on my next long walk, perhaps walk a kilometre or so past it to truly exorcise the freak-out of the day before.

And that’s when I saw him. The skinny jeaned man. Can you believe it? This time he was wearing a peach jumper with his skinny jeans. PEACH, reader. His long-ish grey hair was combed neatly from a centre part and he was walking at the same light trot he’d displayed the day before. 

Also? He was walking a dog. A basset hound with the cutest face you ever did see. Skinny jeaned man looked NICE today. The combination of the peach jumper and sweet pup made him seem much less threatening. I felt so stupid for being worried and nearly needing to poop my pants the day before.

“Your dog is so cute,” I gushed as he approached. This was a sort of covert apology for anxiously thinking ill of him during yesterday’s tunnel encounter.

“Aw thanks!” he replied, breaking into a smile, his whole face lighting up making him look even nicer and making me feel even sillier for being so worried.

I walked on, a huge sense of relief flooding my system as thoroughly as panic had the day before. 

“Can you even believe it?” I asked myself. “He seems so lovely and gentle. What was I thinking?”

But then I thought about how often women feel threatened, how many of us feel we have to have our wits about us. And I thought about how sad it was that this sort of vigilance means we have to make snap judgements about folk who are very often completely good people. Some of them might even have peach jumpers and sweet-faced dogs.  

My thinking was interrupted by a passing older woman who had set out on her morning walk dressed entirely in hot pink. Pink skivvy, pink tracksuit pants, pink runners. She even had a pink swirl in her hair.

“Hello!” she said from the requisite 1.5m distance.

“Hello! You look amazing!” I cried back and she laughed and thanked me as she trailed off after her little black dog.

It was clear to me that she did not give a single toss about convention and being invisible. She was keen to be as joyfully in-your-face as she possibly could and I could not love it more.

Bolstered and decidedly sweaty by this point, I trotted off the path on the way back, walking between the trees and taking a closer look at the native bee hotel I’d passed on previous walks, the red ribbons hung on the tree now tinted an amazing ochre colour from rain mixing with bark.

I walked between a group of three wandering purple swamp hens, their blue breasts gleaming, their orange bills dipping.

I breathed the perfume of lemon-scented trees and eucalyptus deeply and noted that my pesky asthma and lungs that I – on a good day - described as ‘dodgy’ felt stronger and clearer than they had a long time. I could take a deep breath without coughing and for someone who’s prone to pneumonia and related respiratory ills this was a very, very big deal.

Above me a flock of lorikeets twittered noisily, possibly in celebration of my lungs. Social distancing clearly not on the agenda with those rascals. 

Cockatoos clicked their beaks from overhanging branches, cyclists clicked their gears as they zipped past and magically I was almost back at the beginning of my park route alongside the giant grassy expanse which by now was filled with galloping dogs and soaring tennis balls.

When I eventually got home, weary but pleased, I sunk into a hot bath letting the warmth soothe my sore feet and pinched hips. 

I surveyed my freshly-cut, super-short toenails. I’d snipped them as short as possible to stop them making contact with my shoes and giving me sore toes. But now it was my soles of my feet that were hurting instead.

My shoes were pretty fancy so I must need better socks, I thought vowing to investigate cushy socks once I was back on dry land. I decided I needed to get rid of all my toe hairs (ugh TOE HAIRS) because they kept catching in the fibres of my non-cushy socks.

Why does nobody talk about toe hairs? I wondered. Why don’t they warn you about their perils? There’s much talk of wrangling your boobs when you are walking or running, but little chatter about toe hairs. I’m here to change that.

Later I asked Ari about his toe hairs as we walked into the supermarket. He fixed me with a withering stare and said something along the lines of ‘what is wrong with you?’ so it’s clear I have an uphill battle ahead of me. No matter! I’m up for it! I went head to head with kind tunnel man and survived!

Back at home and freshly post-walk I had settled in for a long soak and to read an article about the call and courting practices of the Powerful Owl. 

Love calls of powerful owls ring out along eastern Australia,” the headline declared enticingly.

The story went on to note that these owls come out at night “for activities like possum shopping” and are very hard to spot due to their excellent camouflage.

As I tried not to drop my phone in the bath I was excited to read that they are the only Australian owl to make the classic 'whoo-hoo' sound.

It should be noted at this point that I love owls and owl-like birds. My mum used to collect owl figurines when I was a kid and I think this convinced me that they were extra special. The bird often mistaken for an owl – the Muppet-like tawny frogmouth – is one of my favourites but actual owls are brilliant too.

These Powerful owls haunted the Fitzroy Gardens and I think the Carlton Gardens too, near to where I used to live. Don’t get me wrong, I hadn’t ever actually seen one there. I’d only read about them and was clearly not keen to investigate the gardens at night simply to glimpse an owl because as you know by now I am a bit of a scaredy-cat. 

Now that tunnel man had turned out to be much more wholesome than I’d initially suspected I was re-examining my perception of threats. I decided I was going to give my best effort to being a little bit more brave. 

At worst I wanted to go looking for the owls’ weird regurgitated pellets and the white washed areas they left underneath branches they’d roosted on during one of my morning jaunts.

At best, I was keen to head back to the park close to nightfall for my first ever evening walk, in the hopes of hearing that Whoo-hoo call. More on that later.

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