My friend Elin and I meet every Wednesday morning at 7:30 for a walking hour of catch-up, book suggestions, family chit-chat and political palaver. We parallel the Atlantic for two miles, striding past Mother’s and Gooch’s Beaches, noting the incoming fog, a lone heron on a rocky outcropping, someone’s name written in stones atop the seawall, a little girl in a blue dress looking for sea glass, sometimes a single pink flipflop sitting on the seawall.
Like most morning walkers, we ease to the left or right, or step off the sidewalk, when others approach. They might be seriously sweating joggers, a teenager plugged with earbuds, two ladies discussing their tomato plants, or a proud new dad pushing his new-born son in a Graco Comfy Cruiser.
Perhaps as you do on your morning strolls, we nod, offer a “good morning!” or simply smile when passing. It’s the morning walk ritual, if not an unwritten law.
A few days ago, Elin and I were chewing over a current event when I noticed a young woman in full Nike regalia jogging full-speed towards us. She was about 50 yards away and she was all business. As she approached, her intensity aggrandized. She pumped muscular arms and appeared hell-bent on staying right in the center of the sidewalk. We drifted slightly left but not enough to please her.
When she ran past, she glared at us and threw her arms up in an exasperated wave, as if it say, “What’s wrong with you? Why didn’t you move aside to make room for me?”
A woman who was jogging behind her came to us and said, “At first I thought she was waving ‘hello’ to you two. What’s up with her?” Another woman walking behind us who had taken it all in, said, “Who was that rude person?”
Why does this bother me? It wasn’t because I felt the ill-mannered jogger should have shown more respect to ladies in their 70s. It was her indignant sense of entitlement. Fortunately, it didn’t ruin our walking pleasure on that balmy August morning at Kennebunk Beach.
But it got me thinking: Who “owns” the sidewalk? Who has the “right of way?” Did she happen to notice two boys playing in the surf? Did she take the time to see the happy smile on the face of the young surfer?
Ironically, just before this happened, Elin had been telling me about her favorite poet, Mary Oliver. I’m less-than-learned about poetry and had never heard of Oliver, so later that day I went to the Kennebunkport library and checked out a book of her poems. One captured me …. and captured my morning:
by Mary Oliver
Every day the sea
blue gray green lavender
pulls away leaving the harbor’s
slick and rutted and worm-riddled, the gulls
walk there among old whalebones, the white
spines of fish blink from the strandy stew
as the hours tick over; and then
far out the faint, sheer
line turns, rustling over the slack,
the outer bars, over the green-furred flats, over
the clam beds, slippery logs,
barnacle-studded stones, dragging
the shining sheets forward, deepening,
pushing, wreathing together
wave and seaweed, their piled curvatures
spilling over themselves, lapping
blue gray green lavender, never
resting, not ever but fashioning shore,
And here you may find me
on almost any morning
walking along the shore so
light-footed so casual.
If I knew that jogger’s name, I’d email this poem to her.