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Walking, May 19

Mileage:  route around Maple Avenue Lake and the Wetlands, total for the day, 4.14 miles

Today I discovered that the camera in my Blackberry has a zoom feature.  Good to know, since I really wanted to get pictures of the Great Blue Heron who was wading at the edges of Maple Avenue Lake.  The zoom feature cannot, however, make up for the low pixels, so this juvenile GBH may not even be recognizable in the photos below.  In the first one, I was able to get pretty close (he is framed between the trees in the middle of the shot):

However, once I came too close, he lifted off with those enormous wings and settled on the opposite side of the lake.  In this shot, he is barely distinguishable from the rest of the flora:

Here is a much better picture that I didn’t take. 

This raises the problem of cameras and the walking tour.  Today I booked the walking tour with Contours.  The route is called The Cleveland Way, around the North Yorkshire Moors.  You can check out the link I posted on this blog.  Now I have the tour set, but I wonder about the camera.

On the last several trips, I have relied on a compact HP digital camera.  The pictures have been good, sometimes even spectacular, but the possibility of missing something as beautiful as the Great Blue Heron makes me think about a Canon or Nikon digital SLR.  If I save money on hotels and transport, could I invest in the right camera?

Mileage today:  2.95 miles, which reflects the fact that I didn’t get out for my usual walk.  I blame meetings, etc. 

The lack of mileage means that I can reflect on reading, specifically my progress through what I consider the quintessential Yorkshire novel, Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte.  I began my Yorkshire reading with a Bronte, Charlotte, but the first novel was Villette, not the most Yorkshire of the Bronte productions.  But WH puts me smack dab in the middle of the place where Nick and I will be walking coming July 2010.  Here is the gratuitous portrait of Emily.

I first read WH as a senior in AP English class in high school with Nelson Sudderth, the second of my most memorable English teachers at Girls Preparatory School.  Since I have the 45 minute commute each way to and from the Haute, I am “reading” this book via Audible.  I suppose listening may not be the same as reading, but I can say in truth that listening to the following passage is even more hair-raising than reading it the first time way back sometime in 1977-78:

“This time, I remembered I was lying in the oak closet, and I heard distinctly the gusty wind, and the driving of the snow; I heard, also, the fir bough repeat its teasing sound, and ascribed it to the right cause: but it annoyed me so much, that I resolved to silence it, if possible; and, I thought, I rose and endeavoured to unhasp the casement. The hook was soldered into the staple: a circumstance observed by me when awake, but forgotten.

‘I must stop it, nevertheless!’ I muttered, knocking my knuckles through the glass, and stretching an arm out to seize the importunate branch; instead of which, my fingers closed on the fingers of a little, ice-cold hand! The intense horror of nightmare came over me: I tried to draw back my arm, but the hand clung to it, and a most melancholy voice sobbed, ‘Let me in – let me in!’

‘Who are you?’ I asked, struggling, meanwhile, to disengage myself.

‘Catherine Linton,’ it replied, shiveringly (why did I think of Linton? I had read Earnshaw twenty times for Linton) – ‘I’m come home: I’d lost my way on the moor!’ As it spoke, I discerned, obscurely, a child’s face looking through the window. Terror made me cruel; and, finding it useless to attempt shaking the creature off, I pulled its wrist on to the broken pane, and rubbed it to and fro till the blood ran down and soaked the bedclothes: still it wailed, ‘Let me in!’ and maintained its tenacious gripe, almost maddening me with fear.

‘How can I!’ I said at length. ‘Let me go, if you want me to let you in!’ The fingers relaxed, I snatched mine through the hole, hurriedly piled the books up in a pyramid against it, and stopped my ears to exclude the lamentable prayer. I seemed to keep them closed above a quarter of an hour; yet, the instant I listened again, there was the doleful cry moaning on!

‘Begone!’ I shouted. ‘I’ll never let you in, not if you beg for twenty years.’

‘It is twenty years,’ mourned the voice: ‘twenty years. I’ve been a waif for twenty years!’ Thereat began a feeble scratching outside, and the pile of books moved as if thrust forward. I tried to jump up; but could not stir a limb; and so yelled aloud, in a frenzy of fright.”

I don’t think fiction gets more blood-curdling than this passage.  This is the kind of book that Nelson said should be read “at high noon in a crowd.”  She has a gift for the bon mot

This novel puts me in mind of Yorkshire not only because of its setting.  The brutality of Heathcliff, the raw passion of Cathy, the emotions of these characters makes me think that Yorkshire will be a landscape of extremes.  How else would the story evolve in the mind of Emily Bronte?

Walking, May 12-18

Mileage today:  1.5 miles acquired during the daily constitutional, 4.39 total for the day

Unfortunately, the last several days have not been the best for walking.  A combination of factors are to blame.  First, there was the trip to Lisle, Illinois for the accreditation forum.  I was able to get out on both Wednesday, May 12 and Thursday, May 13, getting miles in around the Marriott Conference Center.  In fact, there was a wetlands area nearby, and I sighted a snowy egret, redwing blackbirds, and (heard) vocal frogs along the way to the Starbucks.

Really, there is an egret in the picture above.  The important part of walking while away from home is to observe the natural setting that could be wedged between the civilized domain of a strip mall and the wildness that lies just beyond the parking lot.

The second factor was the rain, incessant rain, all weekend.  But I am happiest, I think, when I return to my accustomed routes and sights.  Here are the wild roses I saw today when I stepped out around 11:00 AM near the practice football field.

My plan was to go around Maple Avenue Lake, but the geese commandeered the path.  I have encountered the same geese family this spring.  I think they are notable because they have at least 12 goslings in their brood.  Even for geese they seem particularly fecund.  For some reason I don’t want to challenge them for the right of way.  Instead I backtracked to the wetlands route, where I found a broken stump with life emerging.

I have also started Wuthering Heights, the most Yorkshire and most Bronte of the novels I plan to read.  More on the novel in the next posting.

Walking, May 11

Mileage:  1.5, along the National Heritage Road, past the Oakley Observatory, and back; total for the day, 3.5.

Setting out around 9:30 this morning, the sky appeared ominous.  It seemed likely that my walk would end in a downpour.  The clouds over the football practice field almost convinced me to retreat to my dry office.

Given the looming skies, I kept to the paved route, down the National Road Heritage Trail that runs behind campus.  This path parallels the Wetlands area, so I could hear the geese although the view was screened by honeysuckle. 

The cardinals and wrens dodged back and forth, and I even saw a green heron who perched on a power line.  Beneath him I found wild iris, deep purple and a cousin of the Siberian iris

Walking, May 10

Mileage:  2.5 miles from White Chapel, through the Ropes Course, and around Maple Avenue Lake; total for today, 4.5 miles.

I started from the Hulman Union today and directed my feet toward White Chapel.

This route edges along Speed Lake before it runs behind the chapel.  Along the way, I came upon this clump of Siberian Iris, their deep, rich purple tucked away until I discovered them.

I pass so many different flowers, both wild and cultivated.  Seeing the iris called up a few lines from Gray’s “Elegy written in a Country Churchyard”:

Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,/And waste its sweetness on the desert air.

Of course, Rose-Hulman in the spring doesn’t suffer from the dry, desert air (that will have to wait for August), but it does seem ironic that so many flowers along my walks are never seen.  Deep in the Ropes Course today, I was sure I was walking along paths that haven’t been crossed for a very long time.

While I have provided pictures of flora and fauna in all of my walks from the past several weeks, I have resisted including pictures of the most problematic natural feature–my feet. 

I have suffered from an inflammed plantar fascia tendon in my left foot for the past two years.  Repeated visits to the podiatrist resulted in a moment of truth; since the high doses of ibuprofen and orthotics were not curing my problem, the only other treatment would be an injection of cortisone.  That news was part of my last visit, and I haven’t been back.  So today, I resorted to YouTube videos from quacks and self-healers, searching for pain relief.  Tough it out, I shout at my left foot; the walking trip is not negotiable.  So before I subject myself to the painful needle, I will try to warm up the tendon before I walk, ice it when I return, and stretch it in the interval.

As I write this, I am rolling a frozen plastic bottle of water under my left foot. 

Mileage:  2 miles walking the golf course, 3.5 miles for the day.

Although the mileage remains the prime mover (apropos of walking), I promised to read Yorkshire-appropriate literature.  Thus, Charlotte Bronte.

As part of the perambulation project, I plan to read Yorshire literature, but I started with a non-Yorkshire Bronte novel, Villette, because I have been thinking about this novel in particular.  It isn’t set in Yorkshire but is still authored by a Bronte.  Please add the necessary umlaut above the “e.”

I have been a Brontes reader since high school.  In Nelson Sudderth’s AP English class (Girls Preparatory School, class of 1978)l, we read Wuthering Heights, my first foray with a Bronte, Emily.  In graduate school, Brontes were on my reading list–The Professor, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Shirley, Agnes Grey, Jane Eyre, Villette.  Granted, this is a heck of a lot of Brontes.

Wuthering Heights always satisfies, Heathcliff and Cathy and the successive generations repeating the obsessions of every previous generation.  And film adaptations are inspiring.  Who beats Laurence Olivier as Heathcliff?  But Villette poses unique challenges, challenges that I seem to have forgotten since I last read it sometime in 1990-1.  The challenge is Lucy herself.   

Lucy is the first-person narrator of the novel, and it is through her perspective that we learn everything about the students and teachers at the French school where she is employed.  And yet, in reading the novel again, I was reminded how much Lucy Snowe keeps from us, how many of her feelings are only indirectly revealed through the narrative.

For instance, I forgot how absolutely secretive Lucy Snowe is.  She won’t explain the personal family disaster that forces her to seek her fortune in France.  Likewise, she takes the letters that Dr. Graham Breton writes to her and buries them beneath the ancient pear tree in a sealed glass container, but she never explains why she decided to “bury” her feelings (although seeing Polly and Dr. Breton together might be a clue).  And why does she redirect her feelings to the Professor, when she just a moment earlier felt so strongly for Breton?  She won’t explain.  She won’t confess.  Everything she feels remains her secret.

And that’s what I like about this book.  I appreciate a fictional creation who can keep her deepest feelings to herself.  More of us should be keeping our feelings to ourselves.  Enough of confession, revelation, and public display.

 May 4 mileage:  2 miles around the Ropes course and front of campus, 4.5 miles for the day

May 5 mileage:  2.5 miles around the Wetland and Maple Avenue Lake, 5+ for the day

May 6 mileage:  3 miles total, with a short jaunt in Hawthorne Park

I decided to try a new route on Tuesday, going around the Sport and Rec Complex and meeting up with the area near the front of campus that is dedicated to the Ropes Course.  This route takes me around the baseball and softball fields, then across the front of the Rose-Hulman campus.

The gentle rise and fall of the front campus is a better challenge than the even, paved paths of other routes, more like the hills that we will face in England.  The only drawback is that the new route brings me right to Highway 46 and the constant traffic.  I prefer the quiet of Hawthorne Park, or the geese threats of the Wetlands.

I am still keeping up my mileage by supplementing a mid-day walking break of 2 miles with additional walking on the golf course at Pine Woods.  The combination is keeping me at roughly 5 miles per day.  I won’t think much right now about the 10 miles that I will need to complete during the week of July 17th to 24th.

While I appreciate the additional walking I can do on the golf course, I wonder why I am paying the extra fee for a cart when I am not using it.  Nick drives the clubs while I hike the fairways.  Actually I have carried my golf bag in the past, and the experience isn’t that pleasant.  And the cart comes in handy when I have to scale the near vertical cart paths at our local course.  If only there could be a golf cart to ferry me up the likely hills in Yorkshire.

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