Six thirty in the morning. I’m hobbling as I try to walk my dog. A month ago, I had fallen in the ice storm and injured my ankle and I’m still hurting. Last summer, I was able to walk ten miles a day. Today, I can barely handle one. I feel stupid and horrible and beaten.
The year of Covid teaching has been a practice in creative exhaustion. All the pedagogy and methodology and lessons I’ve been drawing on for the last twenty-five years poofed away. I feel like I’m scrambling to keep students focused or attentive on something. Even if it’s the dust motes floating in front of them. They crumble backwards into their shells, unmotivated, exhausted, discouraged by endless days of binary coded education. We all miss the human touch.
So, this morning, I struggle with the early alarm. I twitch the blankets into place on the bed and acknowledge the relief of arriving at Friday, at being able to shut off the alarm clock. I step carefully down the stairs, taking each step individually, feeling like a toddler learning to navigate walking. The day is utterly unremarkable in its ordinariness, at its grayness on this mid-March morning.
I drink weak coffee. Eat cereal with 1% milk that upsets my stomach. I pull on my my exercise pants that are slightly snug and gently slide my injured foot into my shoe. I snap my dog into her no-pull harness, shrug into my jacket, and step outside.
Raindrops trickle. Just single droplets lazily leaking from the dusky blue clouds. On the horizon, the sun rises, the gap between the sky and the clouds an incandescent palette of pinks, oranges, and reds. As my dog and I walk down the street, the colors deepen, burgeon into fuchsias that mingle into lavender and purple. Periwinkle ripples the edges.
The rain stops and the birds chorale the morning closer. One has a two note chirp that sounds like the bird is lisping…a slurred skitty skirt song. In the cedar trees lining the road, mourning doves shuffle, take flight, their wings making the altoed keening sound.
My dog stops, snuffles at grass, tries to carry a used tissue crumpled in front of the house where three children live. They love my dog, love to run their hands along her black and white furred back. They know to leap backwards when my dog arcs onto her back legs so she can plop her front paws on their chest and lick their faces. They’re not afraid of my dog and her kisses. But they don’t want the muddy paw prints on their clothes.
A V of five geese crest over me. They call reassurance to their leader. Maybe they’re asking for a break? Wondering why they left the lake so early in the morning when the grasses in the farm fields are not long enough to be nibbled on. They push onward, going toward the west, away from the white-yellow sky where the sun has risen above the clouds.
Another cluster of geese, only three this time, arrive. They fly in a long wing, a single edge of the traditional V. The foremost one, the one I assumed was the leader, peels away from the other two. Travels southwest in a long graceful line.
The other two push northward, unaware of their friend’s departure. Or maybe they’re ignoring where the odd one went, not wanting to chase the rebel goose and its bleating honks that might not have the same rhythm or octave that they carry.
Either way, the odd goose senses its loneliness. It corrects its compass direction and redirects its arrowed head toward its companions. A wide arc is formed, the radii connecting as the odd goose, the lone goose, returns to the others. The three honk together, a stair step of words. A greeting? Perhaps the odd goose is explaining why it went away, that it was distracted by the roads beneath them, that it saw something glimmering. Maybe it was confused. Maybe, it just wanted to fly in a different direction for a moment just so that it could be the odd goose living outside the limits.
On earth, I watched the odd goose within its parabola of safety and limit testing. I hobbled along with my dog who had eased her pulling, who had slowed to match my lack of speed. The pain in my ankle hit its crux and eased and I was able to walk with more normalcy, without feeling like I was lurching through each step. I put on a bit of speed, nothing much. Just enough to test my limits, push them forward a bit, just enough to add a bit more to my mileage and return to my normalcy.